Most procrastinators are perfectionists.
One of the reasons why I can never keep to-do lists, journals or even write regular blog posts is becauseI can’t consistently produce perfection and it bugs me. I find myself holding off until I find the perfectsystem, the perfect message or the perfect outcome. I only keep my tasks on sticky notes because I can’t stand looking at a long list of unaccomplished items and I’ve almost given up on projects because I wasn’t getting the results I wanted in the time I desired.
That, and I’m a Virgo who grew up in a Type A household. Growing up, I remember being endlessly criticized for everything I did, how my sneakers were tied incorrectly, that my nose was too big and that I had to finish all my milk.
My parents were Masters of Criticism, with a capital “M”.
They were even able to exert their criticisms of me indirectly through their criticism of other people.
It was like a superpower that they used for evil. Here’s a great example:
I brought home my first report card from second grade, I got a few A’s and B’s which I thought was a great accomplishment seeing as how I didn’t speak English at all having arrived in the US only a few years prior. By all means it was a great report card with some glowing remarks from the teacher.
To which my parents responded to me: “Anna, it’s not that you’re smart, the other kids in your class are probably just dumber than you.”
Perfection becomes a crippling fear.
During high school and college, I did all my papers last minute and crammed for exams a day or two before because I had a crippling fear of failure. What if I actually spent all of my time and energy focused on a task only to be horrible at it? At least I could use the excuse that I didn’t have enough time to prepare to hedge any future disappointment.
(I see this in different iterations with my clients where the fear of failure prevents them from pushing forward in key areas of their private lives, even though they may be highly functional in public arenas. This results in a disproportionate amount of success in their careers coupled with a sense of lacking in their relationships.)
Welcome to mediocrity and apathy.
Looking back, I had artificially capped my performance at a mediocre level because I was too scared to break through. What if I just didn’t have it? What if that little piece of genius that I was so closely guarding didn’t really exist?
Perfectionism creates a cycle of stress and unproductive behavior that makes you a prisoner to your vision of perfection that, ultimately, strangles you. But you didn’t need me to tell you that.
There are many unfinished novels, preemptive breakups and unfulfilled dreams owed to perfectionism, which is really society’s acceptable term for self-defeat.
Perfectionism is an inability to fully live in the present and a fear of not being good enough. It’s an endless striving for something that doesn’t exist and an excuse for not fully participating in your life.
Perfectionism = Fear dun..dun..DUN…
(I call this ADS–Asian Doctor Syndrome)
What I’ve learned is that there is a subtle distinction between aiming for higher standards and living in fear.
Take a moment to check in.
Are you putting something off because you actually know it can be done better? or are you putting something off because you are afraid you can’t do any better?
Remember that everything that you do and don’t do creates the blueprint for your life and for your future. Sometimes we are lucky to have our outer veneers melt a little, due to illness, age or other circumstances.
This allows us to see the unfolding of the wonderful elements that make up our lives, to have a new perspective.
Here, in the intricate web that is our unique self, we see the perfection of existence which shows that all along, we have always been perfect. And all of those moments where we bashed our heads in striving toward our idea of perfection were just reminders to love ourselves more, no matter what, irregardless of what we are doing or not doing.
This is because the act of loving and being compassionate to ourselves in the present moment allows us to grab onto that elusive sense of perfection and take it as our own.
No conditions, no other external standards, just you and your life.
Once you own your own perfection, you can stop seeking.
This makes writing blog posts a whole lot easier.