Life constantly challenges you to confront your weaknesses in an often annoying and in-your-face type of way. I would compare it to attempting to carry on a serious conversation with your husband amidst all three of your kids repeatedly chanting “mama, mama, mama.” Or trying to get all three of your kids out the door in the morning with all their appropriate outdoor gear and without losing your mind. Or finally coming home after a long day only to have complaints from all three of your kids about supper and then making multiple suppers so said kids will eat something. Do you sense a theme here?
Back to perfectionism. One of my weaknesses, or so I thought, was procrastination. Not with the usually procrastinated tasks such as school projects or cleaning around the house (although there was plenty of procrastination with these at times!) but typically with activities I enjoyed or was especially passionate about. My tendency to procrastinate in these situations baffled me for quite some time and I began questioning myself. If I enjoyed these activities so much, why did I constantly put them off? Why did I create excuses to avoid doing them? Did I really enjoy them as much as I thought?
And then one day it hit me. It was not procrastination holding me back but rather perfectionism. As a self-proclaimed “Type A” person, perfectionism for me was basically a given. I felt this intense need to do everything perfectly and if I couldn’t do it perfectly, then I didn’t want to do it at all. I had this picture in my mind of how things should be and if things did not align with the picture, I felt that I had wasted my time or was somehow a failure. This was especially true of the activities I was most passionate about and it perpetuated a cycle of feelings that I had failed myself and it basically sucked the joy out of doing things.
Prior to embarking upon finishing my bachelors in nursing and then continuing on to graduate school, my perfectionist tendencies ruled my life unchecked. Sure, I was bothered by the fact that I had a tough time enjoying anything but that’s the price of doing things perfectly, right? Throwing graduate school on top of marriage, three kids, and a full-time job was overwhelming. It became impossible to do even one thing “perfectly,” much less the number of things that I needed to accomplish daily in order to feel like I was staying afloat.
Unfortunately, negative thought patterns, including perfectionism, have a tendency to sneak into all areas of your life. This can lead to a multitude of side effects including anxiety, depression, and even lowered self-esteem. At its core, perfectionism is an impossible goal and pursuing it only leads to dissatisfaction. For me, it led to dissatisfaction with many areas of my life and a constant feeling like I was chasing something but I wasn’t sure what it was. My goals were entirely unrealistic and therefore, unattainable.
So, what can you do if you are also a self-identified ‘Type A” perfectionist? Stay tuned to my next post for a few tips I have found helpful in combatting perfectionist procrastination.