Transforming Perfectionism-Based Procrastination

As a perfectionist, you might have high standards and expect a lot from yourself.

Procrastination can be a symptom of perfectionism. When you’re afraid you won’t be able to complete a task perfectly, you might put it off.

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You may fear how others will criticize or judge you. You may worry about disappointing people.

Dreading the thought of doing poorly can come from seeing your achievements as a measure of your worth.

You can get stuck in a loop.

You expect and desperately want a great outcome but doubt whether you can achieve perfection so you wait until you can do it perfectly.

It can become a frustrating loop since you end up wasting valuable time beating yourself for putting things off.

By freeing yourself from this habit, you can better use your time to accomplish more with less stress.

How do I break the pattern?

  1. Look at what cognitive distortions are at play in your thinking and challenge them. Perfectionism usually includes some all-or-nothing thinking, ‘should’ statements, and overgeneralizing.

    Some examples are: “I should always push myself”, “I should always be productive”, or “If I can’t do something perfectly, why bother?”. What could you tell yourself to defeat those thoughts?

  2. A driving force behind perfectionism is usually a desire to show people you are good enough to be loved and accepted.  It can be hard when your sense of worthiness is tied to your achievements, success and productivity.

    Are you still lovable even if you are flawed and make mistakes? Are you still worthwhile as a human being if you aren’t being productive?

  3. Lastly, what would it look like if you changed your mindset about making mistakes? Do you look at your mistakes and use the experience and clarity to base your next decisions on or do they immobilize and embarrass you?

    It’s easy to feel discouraged and feel like a failure. It takes a lot of courage to accept a mistake, learn from it and move forward. What if you saw mistakes as opportunities for valuable experience and insight for future actions? What if experimenting and making mistakes were a necessary and expected part of the creative process for finding solutions?

    If mistakes help us learn and grow, how might that change thoughts about failure?

Perfectionism-based procrastination is a habit that can be transformed with insight and new actions. Using a Habit Log to examine feelings and thoughts combined with other CBT motivational methods, you can shift the way you relate to getting things done and how you talk to yourself along the way.

Could I Have Social Anxiety?

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Everyone - even the most social people - has some degree of worry or discomfort about being around other people. 

When the discomfort becomes intensely distressful or starts to interfere with your life, it could be social anxiety. 

You might avoid social situations as much as you can. You might feel really uncomfortable or self-conscious talking to strangers, making eye contact, or entering parties.  Starting conversations or making small talk can be a nightmare. 

Most socially anxious people dread social situations due to fears about being judged by others, being embarrassed and showing it, or accidentally offending someone.  Some people dread performance situations in which humiliation or embarrassment could happen - ex. speaking in a meeting or giving a presentation. 

Some of the physical symptoms can manifest as nausea, sweating, blushing, or trembling.  Your heart may race, or you might get an upset stomach. 

Without treatment, social anxiety can continue indefinitely. Most people with social anxiety have experienced symptoms for over 10 years before searching for a therapist. Social anxiety can feel incredibly isolating, which can make it hard to find help. 

Treatment for Social Anxiety

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the "gold standard" for treating anxiety, encourages people to transform their negative thoughts and feelings. The main goal of CBT is to identify irrational beliefs and thought patterns and replace them with positive ones that are actually believable.  This is not just trying to "think positive", as friends may have suggested to you. If it were that simple, you would have kicked social anxiety to the curb years ago! 

Your brain has become used to thinking negatively and anxiously. It takes practice and repetition - every day - to train yourself to think in a new way.

As your core beliefs change, so does how you see the world around you. With more and more practice, you can expect to experience long-lasting improvement of anxiety symptoms and a stronger sense of well-being. 

A sense of belonging and connection are key human needs -  just like the need for food or shelter.  When you're able to overcome social anxiety, being with people can actually be fun and enjoyable. Your health and happiness exponentially improve.