Forgetting Perfectionism

I have a confession; I am a chronic procrastinator.

I am not lazy, I am not unmotivated, and I am not apathetic. But I wait. And wait some more. (Before rushing to finish all the tasks I let pile up in my weeks of stagnation. And by rushing, I mean staying up until five A.M cramming for finals.)

I have always battled my inner desire to put things off, in literally the entire spectrum of my life. But I, and many other procrastinators, are not lazy; we are perfectionists. Society often fails to understand perfectionism and the traits that accompany it. I have seen in nearly every perfectionist a fear of failure. If one thing is wrong with our work, our psyche begins to crumble, and hysteria is unavoidable. I wish I was exaggerating.

Perfectionists worry themselves sick over things that are only vaguely under their control. They try for something that is, in reality, unattainable. When they begin to realize that this is impossible, they begin to procrastinate.

The problem isn’t fear; the problem is control. If something is unfinished, there is still some amount of control over its outcome. Once it’s finished, it’s out of your hands. Its success or failure depends on finished, uncontrollable work. If something is unfinished, there is theoretical success, which can easily be confused with real satisfaction. Because, you see, I have this great idea, and though I’ve never put it into practice, it’s still absolutely credible. If something is finished, what’s done is done. I could lose my job over this if it fails. Every opportunity you’ve ever had has led up to this moment. You have one shot. The pressure is tangible.

So you procrastinate, because what isn’t done can’t be failed. The problem is, someone is going to do it. If it’s not you, it’s someone else. Someone who may not have done it quite as well, but they did it (and you didn’t). You’re not going to get an award for something that is an unwritten theory.

We need to remember that we are just human; perfectionism is unattainable and pressuring yourself for success is the surest way to not succeed. Failing an assignment in work or school will not stop the world from spinning, and worrying about it only increases your chances of failing. Putting something off “until tomorrow,” only works in theory, but no one can survive off of theory. In truth, failing to complete is worse than failure to complete it well, and, if we really acknowledge that, we’ll begin the road to recovery. Quitting procrastination starts with finding its root: trying for unattainable perfection.

Perfection is impossible and frustrating. It will destroy your sanity if you let it. Don’t wait for someone to finish the thing you know you are capable of doing. I can promise you, the roughest achievement will be more fulfilling than the most detailed unfinished goal. The end goal is the thing you need to chase; save the perfectionism for the editors.


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