Saturday, 14 November 2015

Is your perfectionism the root of your procrastination?

Sometimes I think we get so caught up in our own heads we end up treading water because the fog is so thick that we can’t find our way forward.

At least that is how I feel allot of the time.

I think too much. I know it.

I try to work out the best ways to do things and then I end up spending so much time researching the how, that I forget to actually go and do.

I think it is a problem that allot of people suffer from. Some people would call it procrastination.
But I am not sure it is that.

Some would say it is fear of failure or even fear of success, and sure, fear may be a symptom but, I feel as though this is another beast altogether.

Really though, I think it is perfectionism at it’s debilitating best.

The mental health connection;

Extreme perfectionism has been categorised as a mental health issue as it can lead to anxiety disorders, OCD and depression.

When I learned this information it was as though a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

I am a perfectionist and I have suffered with mild anxiety my whole life; although I didn't put tow & two together until my son was recently diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder (he is also a chronic perfectionist).

When I started researching the issue after his diagnosis and when I listened to what his counsellor had told him.

The penny dropped. it was like he was telling me my life.

The good side of this is that now I understand myself so much more, and I can also totally empathise with what my son is going through.

So if you were thinking that you were a bit of a failure in life, fear not, you are simply a victim of wanting things to be too good for your own good.

So stop thinking so much. ;D

This is how I think it works: 

Eventually fear of not getting it perfect results in a failure to attempt something in the first place.

Don't try; won't fail.

It's kind of like commitment phobes.

People often can’t commit to other people because they are scared of failing the relationship.

It is just perfectionism getting in the way of living.

So how do we overcome the debilitating aspects of perfectionism and use it to launch ourselves to greatness?

This I wish I knew. If I had the answers I would be making millions no doubt.

But have a fact sheet that may offer you some help. ​

Cognitive behaviour therapy is also a great tool for helping you get around the barriers your perfectionism has created.


you can try the approach that I have used my whole life and that is 'self talk', such as:

"get over yourself you soft cow!!!" 

But that may not work for everyone. ha-ha-ha.

But seriously; positive affirmations are a great way to drown out the negative self talk.

My view;

I do have my own theories on the matter. Theories is what i do best. I have a tonne of them about many things in life.

Unfortunately I am not prone to acting on my great ideas and so that is what they remain...ideas.

My theory around perfectionism has a long history; it is based on my own life and the observations of my children, who have inherited some of my less desirable traits. Sorry guys.

So it has no scientific study or facts to back it up.

I have had great moments in time when my perfectionism, having had a direction to channel it, allowed me to succeed in my chosen sport...for a good while.

However, that same beast was the cause of a rapid spiral downwards and subsequent withdrawal from the sport I loved so much.

It helped me push myself to train hard but it also allowed me to push past the point of no return, beyond my threshold of a balanced life.

And, when you get to that point, the beast rears it’s head and devours you.

      Strong Support Network;

I feel that in order to control perfectionism we need to have people in our lives that we trust to tell us when enough is enough and when we are out of control.

We need to give ourselves permission to listen to the people who love us and to back down if they tell us to.

This is very hard because you get to a point where you are so driven you are like an addict. 

You don’t see that you are out of control and you won’t accept the help of others or their words of wisdom.

I didn't have the right kind of support when I was younger, and so when I was training like a mad woman there was no-one to step in and put a lid on it.

So who is the perfectionist?

I think we all know people with this perfectionism ‘problem’.

You know who I mean.

The ones who are 250% on or not on at all.

They are the ones that throw themselves into a new project head first and totally committed, but after not too long, they burn out.

All or nothing.

​I know this person. 

I see her everyday in the mirror.

It's not just the high flyers either, you get perfectionist personalities in every walk of life.
Stay at home mum's who have a perfectly ordered & faced up pantry, who iron their sheets and even underwear. 

It's not because they are bored; far from it. It's because everything has to be perfect.

Then of course there are those who are so extreme that you would never know they have a perfectionism issue because they gave up on life a long time ago.

You will often find them living a very low-key lifestyle; the recluse.Of course these are generalisations and there are plenty of perfectionists out there who are thriving in life.

But they are not who I am talking about today.

I think the whole perfectionism thing is why I have never finished any project I have started; from School to Uni to various other ventures in life.

I am what you would call an habitual quitter. I used to think it was just because I got bored with things; and that is probably part of it.

But I truly believe that it is more to do with my perfectionist personality wanting to be already at the final destination, with my dream having come to life in it’s most perfect manifestation.

And if it's not perfect then it's not worth doing.

So, when reality sets in and the long hard slog to the top begins, I freak out. I feel like I won’t be able to achieve my goal in the manner to which I have dreamt it and so I give up on it.

Better to have not tried than to have failed. For me, if it is not perfect then it is a failure.  

Of course this is ridiculous.  But the mind is a powerful instrument, and if we let it, it can hold us back from being the amazing person we are capable of being.

      Nature v Nurture;

I often wonder how much of my need for things to be perfect is genetic and how much is environmental, (In which case how much of my children’s anxiety is genetic and how much is through how they were raised?).

Or a combination of both?

​I remember an old nursery rhyme my mum used to say...all the time…you probably know it:

“Good, Better, Best, never let it rest, till your good is better and your better best.”

Now that sounds like a mantra to live by. 

Never give up; you will succeed if you just keep trying.

BUT, if you pound that ideology into the brain of a child who is hard-wired to perfectionism you may be creating an unattainable bar for that child to try to jump over.

If a child’s inner concept of best is at a point that is crazily 'out there' and not likely to be achieved, then from an early age that child is learning that they can’t succeed.

They are learning that whatever they try to do just doesn't meet expectation (albeit their own).

So inevitably to protect themselves they stop trying.

      Early intervention;

These days we talk about SMART goals and setting short-term targets that build towards the bigger end game. Yippee.

But I am not sure we are teaching that to our kids early enough in their cognitive developmental stages of life and so by the time they get to an age where we start talking SMART goals the parameters for overly high target setting have already been set.

Don’t get me wrong, I think a touch of perfectionism goes a long way towards a person’s success in life; whatever their goals are.

I just feel that if it is allowed to grow and manifest into the beast that it can become, we can lose the power it offers us, becoming dis-empowered by our own drive for ultimate perfection.

I don’t know, I don’t have a degree in Psychoanalysis or Psychotherapy. 

So who am I to say what is what? It’s is just a theory of mine as I said earlier.


After writing this piece as one of my daily journal entries I thought I would share it.

So I went back and found some useful links; as you will have found through the article.  (Turns out my theory is not so far off.) :)

I hope you find them helpful for either yourself or someone you know.  


I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic...What is your theory? 

Until next time,  

Robyn :)