The Pressures of Perfectionism & Procrastination
"At it's root, perfectionism isn't really about a deep love of being meticulous. It;s about fear of making a mistake, fear if disappointing others, fear of failure, fear of success." -Michael Law
I don't want to say it's like been super dramatic but I have definitely struggled with perfectionism; having really high expectations of myself, anything that I create and everything I do in life. I think this is a common experience with the generation we live in because we are so tapped into this new intricate world of the internet.
I, like many of us, grew up on platforms like We Heart It, Tumblr and Pinterest where content can be beautifully categorized and infused with aesthetics, themes and vibes. I am definitely an aesthetically driven person and as inspiring as these platforms can be for motivation, it can also be hindering when you start to create an expectation out of life and your representation of it that is unrealistic.
As eye-soothing as a mood board can be, watching someone live their life online can be or scrolling through Instagram and TikTok can be, it can also set a layer of subconscious, unrealistic pressure to suddenly make everything we do and create seem equally perfect.
I've been on both sides of this as a content creator. I know it can be a problem if our brains aren't also introducing other truths and realities to the content and situations we're consuming; if we don't actually acknowledge the effort and thought process behind the screen or lens.
So if you are someone who struggles with perfectionism and find it's keeping you from truly living your life, these questions or journal prompts are for you.
My first question is "In what areas of your life do you seek or expect perfection?"
Seeking perfection can be so innocent when what we're really looking for is inspiration and the organization of our lives into clearly defined categories. I won't lie, I go on Pinterest looking for this kind of inspiration. I don't want to see a chaotic mess of ugly colours and imagery, I want to see the themes and vibes and aesthetics that infuse me with a vision to create similar art out of my own life. I don't think there is anything wrong with that so long as we remember to keep everything in moderation.
My second question: When you are seeking out perfection or when you are expecting it from yourself... what does it feel like? Where do you feel it? If you can figure that out on your body, then the follow-up to that is how do you react to that feeling?
Expecting perfection out of myself feels like I have to get everything right or else it will all feel worthless and like a big waste of time. It is a lot of pressure, like my brain is squeezing in every last detail or overthinking from every possible angle to make sure what I'm doing is perfect. As human beings, in some ways we are very predictable. We do tend to react on the things that we feel and the things that we think in a similar way each time we experience them. I know when I'm expecting perfection out of myself and I'm about to do something where I'm expecting that perfect outcome and all of that pressure suddenly builds up inside of me, I tend to procrastinate. I often distract myself and this is such a normal experience that so many of us do. Maybe you don't even realize that you distract and procrastinate until you leave yourself zero amount of time to get something done. Then you get so close to the deadline and you don't even care about it being perfect anymore because you just need to complete it, thus avoiding the perfectionism cycle. It's actually incredibly smart if this is a behaviour you experience, but it doesn't feel very good.
My third question: How do you react when you feel that sense of procrastination?
Do you procrastinate? Do you distract yourself? Are you mean to yourself?
This is an area of life that I have definitely struggled with in the past. I know that when I had that sense of perfectionism around my body image, whenever I found myself feeling insecure or imperfect, my inner dialogue got incredibly degrading and mean. If your reaction to feeling a need to be perfect is thinking 'if I beat myself up, I'll do better.'
Is that really better? Are you enjoying yourself? Are you enjoying your time on this earth? Likely no...
Give yourself some grace. Let yourself off the hook. Give yourself the credit you deserve. It is one of the best practices you can do when working with expectations that didn't meet your standards or didn't meet your level of perfectionism. When you start to feel down by how something turned out, think about all the lessons you learned, think about the experience you gained. Nothing is ever wasted. Take away all that fear of needing it to be perfect of making mistakes, disappointing others, failure or fear of success. Allow yourself to just enjoy the experience for what it is and enjoy the lesson you gained from it. Give yourself credit for putting the energy into whatever it was.
A final practice to take with you: Imagine yourself in your later years taking in your final moments of life. Imagine being able to sit by your own side, take your own hand, look into your own wise and weathered eye and ask that version of you their expectation.
Odds are, this version of you would tell you to let go of all the pressure, to stop trying to be perfect and to enjoy the life and time you have for exactly what it is. They would tell you that all of these standards and ideals are not just a waste of your time, but they are stealing your time and they would encourage you to let life and yourself be perfectly flawed. They'd say to soak up the moment, to enjoy what you are doing and to cherish it like it was your very last moment on earth, because one day it will be.
And when that day comes, every moment you will have lived, every thing you have ever created, every lesson that you learned will have built into the uniquely, beautiful, irreplaceable version of you.
Watch the full coffee talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a66Uq6wAuwM&t=199s