Procrastination & Perfectionism

When I was in college, I was paralyzed by perfectionism, to the point where I was failing on assignments and even full semesters of classes because I couldn’t even get myself to start writing my papers for fear of not doing good enough. I would stare blankly at the computer screen the night before a big paper was due stressing more and more with each passing minute.

Procrastination didn’t start for me in college, but I no longer had my mom looking over my shoulder telling me I had to do my assignment or I couldn’t go out with my friends. I quickly realized that if I did nothing, I was guaranteed to fail. I also knew that I was generally an A or B student.

I told myself that if I handed literally anything in, I would likely receive at worst a C… maybe a D if I really, really bombed. So I put a Post-It note on my computer that said, “Done and so-so is better than nothing at all.” I would do my best to take the pressure off and remind myself that turning anything in was better than the guaranteed failure of not delivering anything.

This helped, but I still had bouts of low or no motivation, projects I would put off for way too long, and things I would avoid until the last possible moment. Instead of even looking at the impending projects, I would binge watch tv series for days at a time, letting dishes pile up in the sink, sometimes not even showering. When I say paralyzed by perfectionism, I mean it!

This continued past college, despite going to therapy throughout. It was bordering on full-blown depression. Not being willing or able to perform and deliver impacted my confidence and self-worth. This continued for years, sometimes better, sometimes worse… Then finally something happened.

I was doing consulting work, creating graphics, which I love to do, for a client who was super kind. I worked to get the design just so, lining up all the elements just right, aiming to be as close to perfection as possible. I finally had it looking the way I wanted and sent it over to her.

Her reply… She had something completely different in mind. 

I realized that there is no universal perfect. I could have spent weeks getting that image just right and it still would not have matched what my client was looking for. There was no such thing as one version of perfection.

This helped a lot! I had known cognitively that there was no such thing as perfect. That we all have flaws and make mistakes from time to time, that our imperfections make us unique and who we are. But, still, I had secretly been striving for some ideal of perfection that was based on my own ideas and judgments of what I thought was right, good, acceptable, and ultimately perfect.

After that, I gained some more freedom and confidence in my creative projects and work. I didn’t take every bit of feedback as criticism and make it a personal attack. But then, I realized that I still had a sneaky deeper level of perfectionism running me in the background.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember exactly when or where or how I discovered it, but I found that while I had accepted that there was no such thing as one perfect body or one perfect graphic or writing assignment… I still thought that I as a person should and could be perfect.

Well, as soon as I saw that I was functioning from that idea, I knew it wasn’t any more true than the idea that I could create a perfect paper or graphic, or anything else. Again, it is our imperfections make us unique and who we are. In marketing, we call this our unique selling point!

I let go of the idea of striving to be a perfect person, I started giving myself way more grace and permission to be messy, make mistakes and be imperfect from time to time without judging it. There was such freedom and so much more kindness in this choice.

One thing I love is that Sara Blakely shared how she was raised to have the mindset where the only failure was not trying or making mistakes. Hear her tell it in this video. I find that so inspiring and continue to shift my own mindset in this direction. 

I also read somewhere that it is not through being perfect at everything, but through trying different things that we become interesting. We don’t have to be great at everything and we certainly won’t be great at everything the first time we try it, but each time we put in the effort, we grow, we learn and we get a little better and wiser for the next time!

Another thing that really helps in moving through those moments of trying and falling short of the mark, is having a great support system to help dust us off and encourage us to get back up and keep going.

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Author, Adelle King

Adelle King is a business coach working with female entrepreneurs to help them shine their light and turn their brilliance into a thriving, profitable business they love!

She has 10 years of experience working on the backend of online businesses. You name it, she’s probably done it! And 10 years of facilitating deep, transformational healing work, leading workshops in Access Consciousness®, personal growth, spiritual and intuitive development, and deep healing. She now integrates it all into her coaching. She holds a Master’s Degree in Education and has been Certified as a Rapid Results Coach, Instant Miracle Master, Access Bars & Body Process Facilitator, CFMW, and more.

She loves guiding women to develop their vision of their dream life and then inspiring and empowering them to go make it their reality!
Her guiding principle is, “Whatever you desire for your business and your life, whatever that looks like for you… you can have that!”

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