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The Procrastinating Perfectionist

Updated on August 2, 2017

Once again I try to avoid finishing this article. After all, how can I do this topic justice when many people have written and spoken about it before? What will be different that people haven’t already read? What if I miss something really important and can’t go back and change it? I really want to take on the challenge because I am the kind of person who must go to the depths of the most difficult, and yet I wonder—“will I be good enough?” So, I forge ahead in fear and trembling because facing my fear will be good for me, right? Procrastination and/or perfectionism torments most of us to some degree or other. For some of us the two are linked and we become the procrastinating perfectionist.

Perfectionism, in psychology, is a belief that perfection can and should be attained. In its pathological form, perfectionism is a belief that work or output that is anything less than perfect is unacceptable.” (Wikipedia)With such a high level of expectation it is no wonder a person adopts procrastination as a way of coping with the anxiety that comes with starting or finishing any task, or making a decision. For it to be called procrastination, according to Schraw, Wadkins, and Olafson, the activity or action which we choose to do instead of the most important one “must be counterproductive, needless, and delaying.” (Wikipedia) There can be many beneficial reasons why a person would hold off in making a decision or starting a project but procrastination has to do with avoiding a task because we either don’t want to do it or it makes us anxious in some way.

Do you remember hearing the adage, “If you can’t say anything good then don’t say anything at all?” What about the one that has haunted me most of my life, “If you can’t do it perfectly, don’t bother trying?” Now, perhaps it was more insidious in its expression but the expectation was there nonetheless. To complicate matters, without being taught how to achieve this level of expected perfection, a person inevitably makes mistakes. When they are then told, “you should have known better!” the opportunity and a desire for learning or growth is lost.

I grew up with a physical disability and the common attitude was that I would never be able to do the normal things others did. So I felt the pressure to accomplish a task right the first time or there would never be another chance. Fortunately, I was blessed with the ability to visualize what something should look like or the ways I’d have to adapt to make it possible. I had youthful energy, ideology, creativity and a sense of invincibility to fight against these negative messages in an effort to achieve what was (or so I thought) the accepted norm. As I got older my problem-solving skills increased but I didn’t have as much energy to prove myself and my abilities. As a coping mechanism I adopted procrastination to counterbalance the need for perfection. I became more afraid of failure and tended to hold back and wouldn’t participate in things I thought I couldn’t handle. Of course, this developed behavior pattern doesn’t truly benefit anyone who really wants to participate in a full and meaningful life. So, what can be done to change?

Accept Your Humanity

First, accept your humanity—we need to realize that no one is perfect or is able to maintain perfection. It is okay to make mistakes because everyone does, but this does not make us a failure. In fact, we need to consider them as learning opportunities rather than mistakes, applying our skills in problem-solving and ingenuity to find ways that work. This requires a shift of thinking, turning a negative mindset into a positive one. By applying this positive mindset we will discover ways in which we can accomplish what we set out to do even if what works for us is different from everyone else.

For example: I was told that I’d never be able to drive a car. If I had acquiesced to the idea that I could only drive a car if I was able to operate the foot pedals, then I would never have pursued other options. In fact, I overcame that obstacle by getting hand controls and adapted by figuring out a way I could put the wheelchair into the back seat on my own. By not accepting what was the expected norm for the majority, I looked for ways that would work for me and was able to become independent and drive a car.

Accept Your Uniqueness

Second, accept yourself for who you are—this includes your imperfections, your differences and your own unique abilities. If we get caught in the trap of trying to fit in, to be like everyone else, we will lose out on the most important gift we’ve been given, our own unique self. God created us to be different from each other. Even when the Bible talks about spiritual gifts, it say that each person will have their own unique gift. As each person uses their own gift to work together with others in the church body, it will begin to function properly in the way it was intended. I believe that the only way we can make a difference in this world is if we use our difference to make it happen. What makes you different from everyone else?

I have always been equally left and right-brained, which enables me to see things from polar opposite perspectives. I can see the whole picture and understand the parts that make up the whole. I can apply logical thinking in a creative way and drive myself crazy in the process! While I now see this unique ability as a positive thing which I can use in constructive ways, I used to feel like an outsider in most circles. I never really fit into any one group because I could identify with all of them—I became a floater (a loner of sorts.) This became a positive when I worked with a group where there were often opposing viewpoints which could have created conflict and division. I was able to look at both sides and come up with a compromise both parties could agree to. I didn’t get caught having to chose sides—I used my ability to find a different way that worked for everyone.

“Imperfect Action is better than no action at all”

Accept Your Responsibility

Third, accept responsibility for your own choices, intentions and goals. It is so easy to blame our circumstances, those around us, our job, our lack of income, our children, our health, our parents, or anything other than ourselves for our inability to get to where we want to be in life. This simply keeps us in a victim mentality in which we feel unable to make choices according to who we really are and what we believe is right for us. Once we start to take responsibility for our own decisions and actions, we can set realistic goals, and make a plan that will be possible for us to follow.

For instance, I am easily distracted and find it very hard to focus with noise in the background. Because of this I put off doing things, like writing, because I can’t concentrate and I use the noise as an excuse to not do it. When I took responsibility for my own actions (and stopped expecting everyone else around me to change), I found a quiet room to be by myself, used earplugs to shut out even the smallest noises coming from outside, and worked on my laptop in a nice cozy bed. I took responsibility for my own needs and found a way to work that would meet them. My husband, on the other hand, works best with music—it inspires him and the noise helps him focus. So, he finds a way to accommodate his needs by working at a time when noise doesn’t bother anyone or uses a headset at the computer.

One way isn’t any better than the other, we have just figured out what works for us as individuals, and you can too. Try to find the time of day when you are most alert to do the tasks that require the most focus. You’ll get more done in fifteen minutes of “prime” time than in an hour at another time of day. If you need silence to do your work, try to find a quiet place without distractions. If you need noise, find a time and a place where it won’t be a bother to anyone. Find a way to meet your needs and you won’t be so quick to procrastinate, accept that you don’t need to get it perfect and the acitivity/action might even become fun!

Conclusion

I’m not procrastinating any longer and am carrying out my intent to get it done by a certain time and I’m meeting the deadline as we speak. I am not a fast writer because I need time to process what I’m trying to say. Therefore, I set time aside to think, ponder and meditate on possible content. So, I try to remember the 3-As: to Accept my humanity, Accept my uniqueness, and Accept my responsibility so I can enjoy the process of creating something without the pressure to be something I am not. I hope this helps you as well and that you can step into the freedom of being yourself and adapting your style to whatever you need to get done.

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    • Purpose Embraced profile image

      Yvette Stupart PhD 4 years ago from Jamaica

      The is a great hub! There's so much to learn from it, and so interesting.

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      hubpageswriter...thanks for your comment. It is true that those who finish things easily (without much struggle) may look down on those who struggle with "getting it right" first, but they are in the minority. I don't know of any people who don't struggle with some issue of inadequacy in one way or another (it seems to be part of our humanity)...it is how we choose to deal with it that can bring the success individuals strive for. Some people like the adrenalin rush of last-minute deadlines while others prefer diligent progression--each of us have to find what works for us and not allow fear of failure to dictate how we move forward.

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      hubpageswriter 6 years ago

      I rated 3 up: Useful, awesome and beautiful. Procrastination at its best, this hub says it all. It's like you typed it out so well, like what I would be saying should I do a hub like this. But you did it better, anyway the point is that you have such great points. No one is perfect - that notion, which I have been saying all my life. If everyone is perfect, then they would have everything and anything they want in their lives already.

      You started off the story well, if you allow me to quote: "Once again I try to avoid finishing this article. After all, how can I do this topic justice when many people have written and spoken about it before? What will be different that people haven’t already read?" - I think that's superbly mentioned by you. The procrastination perfectionist exists in most of us, and if we can control this "perfecting" ourselves, then we may be able to get more things done. If I may side-track, as much as I accept this trait, I'm sure there are others who would think that those not perfect and unable to finish off their sentences, stories or anything at all are inadequate. - Again, I think that's a rather immature thought, if ever there are any of such notions from others.

      Sorry for sidetracking there. Back to your hub, I love your three elements: the 3-As. I think that's really cool and I'd love to use that for myself too. Hub up.=)

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Fossillady...I'm glad you could relate to what I was saying. I have to remind myself constantly that it is okay to to just do my best and not get caught up in the vicious cycle of perfection. My words for this year are "steady diligence" so perhaps that consistency is what needed rather than a burst of brilliance that fades away quickly. Yes, we are all unique and once we embrace what works for us, we can move forward into our own success! I wish you all the best in 2011.

    • Fossillady profile image

      Kathi 6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      This is a hub many can relate to. You have put it together with much love and that overcomes the fear of needing to be perfect. Thank you for showing us how you have used your strengths in life to overcome your weaknesses. That's what I tried to teach my students and remind myself of often. The balance you talk about, making you a loner at times, reminds me of myself. I could always see both sides and wondered why I wasn't so passionate about one way or another like my friends. I wondered if something was wrong with me. Now I know better. We are all unique. Are you a libra by the way. Balance is our greatest gift!

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      carrie450...thanks for stopping by for a read! Happy New Year to you and yours as well :)

    • carrie450 profile image

      carrie450 6 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

      A great motivational hub FloBe. Happy New Year to you and yours.

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Docmo...it is amazing how quickly our creativity gets submerged in the expectations of life and our own feelings of inadequacy. I was dedicated to writing in my journal, sometimes for hours at a time, but never allowed others to read my writing. I, too, had to overcome the fear of feeling "exposed" and am so glad my husband encouraged me to try HPs. Each time I try something new, I take a deep breath and go for it...hoping it will be "good enough," and am pleasantly surprised at how well it is received by others. Thanks again for your encouragement to me!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 6 years ago from UK

      Bless your heart- I am so glad I read this. I am a classic procrastinating perfectionist. After an initial creative splurge through school and college years , I denied myself the pleasure of writing because I felt I wasn't good enough ( I kept giving myself excuses that 'real' life and responsibilities got in the way) . I only recently took a vow to try , to practice and to produce by doing the best I can, rather than worry about those little subconscious judges holding' not good enough' cards in my minds eye. I am glad to see how well you have vocalised this. Awesome!

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Delores Monet...I can totally relate to feeling like I'm going to wreck a project. Usually, that keeps me from starting at all. But, I'm learning as well. So, there's hope! Thanks for stopping by.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Wonderfully written and a great encouragement to all who fear their own inadequacies. I am a huge procrastinator - a project is put off because I am afraid that I'll 'wreck it.' Now, I'll look at this stupid attitude in a whole different light. I'm not lazy - I'm a perfectionist!

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      richtwf...I like what you said to "aim for excellence and not perfection!" I think that is where the the fine line often gets crossed; we don't know where excellence ends and perfection begins.

    • richtwf profile image

      richtwf 6 years ago

      This a great hub and many of your words easily resonate with me.

      I used to focus more on the minute details but as I grew up I started to open my eyes more and think more about the bigger picture as well as the minutiae so I'd like to think that I'm more balanced now even if that does make me a 'floater'!

      I also used to take a long time to do some things because I would be obsessive about getting it absolutely right but I quickly learnt that we should strive to do our best and aim for excellence and not perfection! I abide religiously by that principle now and depending on the level of importance of the task in hand, most often I will aim for at least 'good enough' and stretch myself when the need for it arises.

      Excellent message and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      sofs...thanks for stopping by and your encouraging comments. Nice to know that you relate to what I said...blessings on you.

    • sofs profile image

      sofs 6 years ago

      FloBe, I was just writing on this topic, now I find that you have covered most of it. I agree with you one hundred percent... somehow people need to accept their humanity, responsibility and uniqueness.

      Happy to have met and followed you back FloBe.. keep doing the good work!! Warm wishes to you!

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      LaurieDawn...thanks for your encouraging comment. We all have something wonderful to offer this world and we can make a difference.

    • LaurieDawn profile image

      LaurieDawn 6 years ago

      What a wonderful insightful and inspiring hub. :)

      I too have put off many things due to my own insecurities. Life was meant to be lived in all its perfections!

      Blessings,

      Laurie

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      timorous...I appreciate your comment and it's nice to meet someone who also looks for solutions in ingenious ways (thinking outside the box.) I just can't help myself! :) Nice to meet you.

    • timorous profile image

      timorous 6 years ago from Me to You

      Hey FloBe..I can totally relate. I've been a professional crastinator for longer than I care to admit. I also have the advantage of seeing the big picture, and finding the best (and sometimes clever) solution.

      I'm currently re-examining my approach to perfection, fear of failure etc. Learning to relax. Very good hub.

      [p.s. thanks for following me :)]

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Jason R. Manning...thanks for stopping by to read this hub. Glad it was of help to you--we all can relate that's for sure! Blessings.

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 6 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Great hub, nicely written, there is indeed a bit of this in everyone. As soon as I saw your list of hubs this was the first I gravitated to, through my own relating. I am glad you didn’t put this one off…

      Take care.

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Good to see you here Kathy. Interesting what you've remembered :)

    • profile image

      kathy  6 years ago

      I well remember when you got your first car .... my parents came for a visit to our house after they had been out west . They were so excited for you about how you managed everything. Your uncle Tony said ..." it is like she does not have a wheelchair... "

      I believe you gave them a ride in your car when they visited your folks.

      Anyway your hub is very interesting ....... love it

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      JaneA...very good point! If we strive for perfection we miss the journey of getting to the good. Life is definitely too short! :) Thanks for stopping by.

    • JaneA profile image

      JaneA 6 years ago from California

      I think there is a saying (Voltaire maybe) along the lines of "the perfect is the enemy of the good" - meaning (I think) that a drive for perfection can stop us achieving an (any) acceptable result. So here's to "just doing it, every d*** day," as my son's T-shirt says. Perfection? Life's too short.

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      GiftedGrandma ... I'm sure it is something most of us can relate to in one way or another. I am still learning, that's for sure! Thanks for stopping by.

    • GiftedGrandma profile image

      GiftedGrandma 6 years ago from USA

      Great hub...I find myself always asking help in that area :O)

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      onegoodwoman...thank you for your kind comments. There is a lot of pressure to perform and it is causing overwhelming stress, which is making people ill. Is it really worth it? I'm thinking we need permission to make a change that will reverse that.

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 6 years ago from A small southern town

      My personal rememberance, is my GrandPa saying, " do it like you have to sign your name on it"...........

      Lots of wisdom in that, but hard to remember in a "fast, producing" atmospere.

      I find you to be.........comforting.

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Good to see you, James. I always learn something new about myself when I write and this article helped to identify some things that have actually helped me! Amazing, how that works. I'm not as afraid to tackle new things anymore. I hope things are starting to look more hopeful for you.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

      Terrific Hub! I think I am also a "floater." I have good friends from an incredible array of different "groups." As far as procrastination goes, I always say "Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?"

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for your vote, DjBryle. You are so right, and perfection is an unattainable goal in the first place, but the cycle entraps us now and then it seems.

    • DjBryle profile image

      DjBryle 6 years ago from Somewhere in the LINES of your MIND, and HOPEFULLY at the RIPPLES of your HEART. =)

      This hub is so helpful. It is never okey to procrastinate just to do things perfectly, or for others to find you "perfect". After all, there is no uniform definition as to what is perfect in the eyes of each person. We may see the same thing at the same time but perceive them in myriad ways. Perfection for me is subjective in nature. Thanks for sharing this very useful hub! Rated up! =)

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      A common dilemma it seems, starbug :) Thanks for stopping by.

    • starbug profile image

      starbug 6 years ago

      An I always considered myself the Queen of Procrastination. I guess I'm just one of many in this Royal Court :D

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Appreciated what you had to say Quill, it seems like this is a common dilemma, and yet so often we feel alone in it. I'm glad these words are of help to you...blessings as you find this freedom for yourself.

    • profile image

      "Quill" 6 years ago

      A checklist written for me... smiles... Like Dave... once I finally get started on something it is hard to stop until it is finished and it has to be done right.

      As I have aged though I must admit I have become somewhat reluctant to start something. There is a balance which we need to find in life and I think you have nailed it down very well...

      Blessings and Hugs

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I totally agree with you DeGreek...I had to learn that it was okay to not get it right the first time and to give myself permission to practice and do the best I could...and that it was OKAY. So, I'm making lots of mistakes now to make up for it! LOL

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      It is a pressure that we carry on into adulthood, unless we choose to change it, DavePrice...so, I encourage you in your endeavor to change and know that you're not alone in your struggle--but we shall conquer!! :)

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      De Greek 6 years ago from UK

      “If you can’t do it perfectly, don’t bother trying?” ????

      With respect, this a horrible obsticle to put in front of anyone, especially a child. It is PRACTICE that makes perfect, and until perfection is achieved, a lot of jsutifiable errors shall be made. :-)

    • DavePrice profile image

      DavePrice 6 years ago from Sugar Grove, Ill

      I know this cycle well - you nailed it. Mt father was an engineer and a perfectionist. It created a cycle in me where I dread starting something, but then once started I can't stop until its done. Thank you for the mental checklist, I'll put it into action for sure.

    • FloBe profile image
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      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks, lisa.bom...welcome to my world :)

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      lisa.bom 6 years ago

      Love this. I can't wait to read the rest of your hubs.