The Relationship Between Perfectionism and Procrastination
Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” -Gerard Way
It’s one thing to be aware that you align with perfectionistic tendencies, yet it’s another to realize how it’s playing into your overall mental health. The thing is perfectionism doesn’t exist solely by itself, it’s actually in a relationship with the behavior of procrastination. They are two members of the same family and those who categorize themselves as overachievers have a hard time seeing the pattern. Often it leads to the belief that they are lazy.
Let’s take a look at how they connect to each other. It starts out with throwing yourself into an idea, goal, or intention so much so that you are giving all your resources to completing it. The thought pattern surrounding this is “it has to be done this way or not at all,” hence that all or nothing thinking mentioned in the last article. So you continue to make progress, but it’s still not what you want so the anxiety begins to build. Maybe you start to think “well if I just give more of myself to it, then I will succeed.” You do just that, but by doing that it means you throw self-care to the side or start to disrespect your own personal boundaries. Cue the curtain to life, and now entering is the most emotionally and mentally draining sensation of them all: burnout. Burnout feels mentally and physically exhausting in all aspects and can at times lead to lower feelings, such as sadness and depression. I’ve seen numerous clients get to this point trying to meet their expectations and they revert to procrastinating working on the idea/goal since it’s not going their specific way. As mentioned before, shame is part of this cycle and here’s where it enters: the judgment phase. All those thoughts of “I’m not good enough, smart enough, or (insert word) enough” begin to trigger feeling ashamed. The thought of “I can’t finish this” can become all consuming for some, which leads them to abandon what they started altogether, therefore the cycle begins again with some other idea or intent.
So what do you do if you notice yourself stuck in this cycle? Look for the gray area and ask yourself “What is good enough where I won’t burn myself out?” The middle ground can be a place we frequently skip over in our society because living in absolutes brings most people comfort. If good enough means bringing down your expectations and that feels uncomfortable, then you’re probably doing something right. However if this feels too challenging, it could be helpful to seek out assistance from a professional where they can guide you through some of these changes at a slower pace.
Disclaimer: Connecting with some of these behaviors does not guarantee you are a perfectionist, nor does it provide you with an actual diagnosis of any kind. The list is here simply to promote awareness. If you are interested in exploring these behaviors and how they affect mental health, please feel free to reach out to a professional therapist.