“What is perfectionism? Do you hold to lofty standards, demand perfection from yourself, and make your worth contingent on meeting these standards?” –
Dr. Bill Knaus
For three, almost for months, I have been stuck procrastinating on this very article. Afraid that I might not meet my own lofty standards for it, demanding perfection from myself and making my self-worth contingent on meeting my own standards.
This means I think that if my article is less then perfect, I suck as a whole.
Being a perfectionist and thus a procrastinator, I suffer from a form of dichotomous thinking where I find myself either smart or dumb, good or bad, winner or loser and nothing in between.
What I forget, according to Dr. Knaus, is that I am a complex human being. So if my article should not be up to par, it does not mean that I am bad or dumb. If I would feel that way (and I would), that’d be based on a false conviction.
I am a pluralistic, complex human being with “a broad array of talents, emotions, beliefs, and experiences.”
Therefore if my performance in one tiny area of my life can still be improved, it does not mean I do not perform well in others.
What happens if I fall into this thinking trap?
Here are the seven steps of the vicious cycle of the perfectionism-procrastination process Knaus mentions.
“(1) You hold to lofty standards.
(2) You have no guarantee you’ll do well enough.
(3) Less than the best is not an option.
(4) As you think of not doing well enough, you feel uncomfortable.
(5) You fear the feelings of discomfort.
(6) You hide your imperfections from yourself and dodge discomfort by doing something “safer,” such as playing computer games. (or checking your Facebook)
(7) You repeat this exasperating process until you get off this contingent-worth merry-go-round by not demanding perfection from yourself.”
Step 7 can go both ways though
– either you learn to become more realistic in your expectations
– or you become lethargic and do nothing anymore, except for “comfort tasks” and start beating yourself up for that too, reinforcing your false conviction that you’re lazy or bad.
Let’s look at some ways to overcome this process:
1) Set the bar lower, not by becoming passive, but by reducing the mountain. A friend of mine told me she writes everyday, AT LEAST 1 sentence and MAXIMUM 15 minutes.
I’ve been trying this and I found that this helps me tremendously when I have to write something I don’t like. I feel a great sense of accomplishment, even if I’ve just written one sentence on a given day. That’s such progress and shift in thinking for me!
If I do feel like writing, but just feel stuck, I stick to the AT LEAST one sentence rule, but don’t set a maximum time, like for this post.
This helps me to set myself into motion. Very often I get into a flow and I find myself writing effortlessly.
2)Keep reminding yourself that you’re a complex person with many talents and emotions. You are a multi-faceted diamond, that’s why you can never be EITHER one OR the other. That doesn’t do justice to the beautifully intricate person you are!
5 thoughts on “2 Solutions to perfectionism based procrastination”
Hello Ester, thanks for being our daughter, you are beautiful. mama
Hey Ester, great article! You definitely got it. For me, I’ve learned to create a shorter list of to-dos, and add in small to-dos like “eat breakfast”. When I check off a to-do, I celebrate! This helps get away from the giant mountain of activities that is so big I can’t start. For writing, it helps me to write a simple outline of what I want to say in a longer piece. If I can find one or two phrases that jar something loose, I can get the creative juices flowing.
thank you Lauren for taking the time to read my article and comment!
And awesome advice too.
Indeed, we really have to make molehills out of mountains again 🙂
Back on track again? Glad to read this, Ester.
Thanks for your inspiring post. Here’s my comment.
This is so familiar to me; perfectionism based procrastination.
My goal for next week will be: working twice a week, at least for one hour, on my ‘piece of art’ again (painting a landscape). The one I like to finish one day. And this ‘one day’ seems far away till now. Before Christmas 2012 it could be finished. Realistic planning, I think. The results of this challenge I like to share weekly…..
Thanks so much for your encouragement DIAC! Appreciated as always.
How are you doing on your piece of art?
Applaud yourself even if you have made only one brush stroke.
Blessings on your day