Is Your Perfectionism Making You Procrastinate?
As creative, talented women we often pride ourselves on being perfectionists. There’s good reason too. The high standards we hold for...
As creative, talented women we often pride ourselves on being perfectionists. There’s good reason too. The high standards we hold for ourselves and what we create make us (when we finally get around to it) produce some of the most wonderful, detailed and precise work. It’s true that being a perfectionist has many benefits. But far too often we get so hung-up on trying to get everything *just right* that it leads to inaction.
The inability to choose one thing over another makes us great planners instead of doers. We’ll work out everything to the most minute details yet fail to take the first step because we fear it might not be the right one. You see, perfectionism is deceiving. It conceals the real issue we’re facing: FEAR. Of making the wrong choice, being criticised, not having what it takes.
In the past, I often misunderstood my lack of decisiveness and action as laziness. It wasn’t hard to get to this conclusion, with society making a point of convincing us that if we’re not moving forward it’s because we simply don’t want to. As a result, I often felt depressed, frustrated, and even angry at myself for not being good enough or unable to meet my own standards.
Laziness is the *least* of our problems.
As multi-passionate, talented, creative women there are many things that can make us procrastinate. In that, perfectionism definitely leads the way. Such as the limiting beliefs we hold of ourselves, like the idea that if we fail, we won’t be able to handle it. Accepting that everybody fails; that it’s a part of life, and being open to the myriad of lessons it brings, can actually be the *best* part of living.
Procrastination can be an issue for performers, musicians and any other type of artists who don’t put out anything into the world if it doesn’t live up to their creative expectations first (which is, well, almost never). Many singers, for example, will tell you that they grew to hate songs they previously released when they spotted something they could have improved on. It’s the same for almost any talented, ambitious creative human.
We’re all notoriously hard on ourselves, aren’t we?
Many people attribute how good they are at doing something to how good they are as a human being. Meaning: what they believe they’re capable of in general. This belief can keep us from thriving. Instead of believing in possibilities and growth, we think in fixed, inflexible ways. Our level of proficiency becomes our worth. The way we are today – what we’re capable of in this moment – is the only thing we’re capable of. This isn’t so.
Extensive research shows our brains are not fixed, but a changing, flexible, plastic wonder capable of pretty much anything. At least if we try. We need to try to break the cycle. If I don’t publish anything because I think my writing sucks, I’ll never be able to improve. If I don’t improve, I’ll never publish anything because I keep on believing my writing sucks. See?
It’s a classic example of a toxic relationship. Procrastination feeds off perfectionism. In turn, perfectionism feeds off procrastination.
But you know what? It’s Okay Not to be Perfect.
It’s scary to show your (he)art to the world, especially when you think it’s not perfect. We sure could all do with a little more creative confidence (believe me, I know). When I launched my first edition of the Dream Bigger Course + Program for instance, it took all the courage I could muster to actually put it out there, and start talking about it. Now, it’s one of the programs I’m most proud of!
When you’re stuck in the cycle of perfectionism and procrastination it’s hard to see other options. I may tell you that the only way out is through, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or that you’ll know how. That’s why I want to share three tips with you that have helped me, and many of my clients, turn procrastination into action.
#1 Have the right expectations (aka lower the bar)
Having the right expectations about yourself can help fight the negative emotions that come from feeling pressured to be perfect all the time. If you’re thinking about quitting your day job and turn entrepreneur, you can’t expect to be the best there is in the first month (or two, or three). In fact, this is true for almost anything new you decide to do. But this shouldn’t stop you from trying. It simply means you must accept there’s a lot for you to learn (which is fun, right?!), that success is a process, not a destination, and that as long as you’re doing something, you’re moving forward.
#2 Create for you and nobody else
A hard one for me to learn, but such a valuable and liberating lesson! Multi-passionate women tend to struggle with procrastination because they believe all the things they want to do have to have career potential before they can pursue them. Living with this mindset can hold them back from doing and enjoying all the things they really want to do. Instead of putting off learning Italian because you’re not sure if you’ll ever need it, why not just do it for your own enjoyment? Not everything we do needs to make money or be seen or praised by others. In fact very little in our lives need to.
#3 Who cares what other people think of you
Many of us talented, curious, creative women let the fear of what other people think keep us from living authentically. We dread criticism so much that we would rather do nothing (and sadly feel like failures) than do even the smallest thing and get judged for it. This is one of the most vicious circles we can get ourselves in, because if we live our lives for the approval of others, we’ll probably never get it. If their approval is what motivates us to take action to reach our goals, then when we don’t get it, there’s no internal motivation to keep going. It’s much more powerful to care about what you think of yourself, and cultivate positive, loving, encouraging thoughts.
In the end, you’re the one who has to do the work. So why not be the one to praise it, approve it, and enjoy it too?