The Antidote to Procrastination Perfection

"Don't let your want for perfection become procrastination" -Danielle LaPorte

Like peanut butter and jelly or paint and canvas, some things just go together. For me, perfectionism and procrastination have been like two P's in a pod; they've just always gone together. 

The two P’s and I have been well acquainted for quite some time.

They became coping mechanisms I used while trying to prove to the outside world that I was "good enough," and seemed like a way to avoid judgment and rejection which, it turns out, could not be farther from the truth.

Perfectionism comes into the equation as that voice that says I need to make sure what I say, do, and create is perfect so no one can judge me negatively for it.

When really, it is a fact of life that you can’t put yourself out there—whether it’s by raising your hand in a meeting, telling a friend how you really feel, or speaking on a stage—without pushing some people’s buttons.

And we all have different triggers that set us off in one direction or another; triggers that cause us to perceive certain words, or situations, in a way that actually has little to nothing to do with the other person; but the only person who has the ability to change our perception of that is, well, us.

For me, once that perfectionistic button gets pushed, procrastination is not far behind. And when you want so badly for everything to be perfect, it’s really hard to get things done.

I have friends who go into productivity overdrive when they get overwhelmed, and I often find myself wishing that was my default reaction as well, but it's not.

For me, it has resulted in a type of procrastination and an unquenchable need for perfection that can only be described as paralyzing. That may sound dramatic to people who have never had that feeling, but that has been my experience.

Or I guess, more accurately, how I’ve chosen to experience those situations. I've wanted to do everything perfectly, to create the most detailed and organized to-do lists, to research every angle of something before I moved forward so I could be sure my end product was “perfect.”

But the truth is, that way of thinking has helped me make lots of lists and perform countless Google searches, without actually helping me do what I was trying to accomplish in the first place, perfectly or not. 

"Why, when we know that there's no such thing as perfect, do most of us spend an incredible amount of time and energy trying to be everything to everyone? Is it that we really admire perfection? No—the truth is that we are actually drawn to people who are real and down-to-earth. We love authenticity and we know that life is messy and imperfect." -Brené Brown

So, what do I mean when I say that procrastination and perfectionism have felt paralyzing to me at times?

I have sat at my computer for three hours staring at the screen trying to craft the perfect email to ensure the person receiving it would have nothing to judge me for more times than I can count.

I have written the same task over and over again on different lists in different pretty notebooks in different colors of pen, hoping and praying that this new way of organizing my thoughts might finally turn me into the productive dynamo I wished to be.  

Just a few of the MANY pretty notebooks in my collection

Just a few of the MANY pretty notebooks in my collection

But instead, I'd stare at the email, or the list, and the inner dialogue of my ego and its fear based thinking would kick in and say; “Don’t bother going after that thing, they’ll probably just say no anyway,” or “You need to make sure you position this request perfectly or its not even worth making it,” or “There is no way you can get all these things done, but everyone will judge you and think you suck if you have to ask for help, so let’s just forget it and not do any of it because it would be more painful to be vulnerable. If you ask for help people will think you’re weak and don’t have it all together,” my ego would say.

So, I'd sit, and stare.

At the screen, the page, the phone—I'd stare and feel that rush of not good enough-itis coursing through my veins.

My heart raced, I'd get flushed, tears would well up in my eyes.

I'd sit there thinking about everything I had to do; yet I'd do nothing, except freak out. And that cycle continued, until I remembered that the greatest tool I have to come back to center, to what’s real, is always with me—my breath. 

If I simply close my eyes, sit up straight, and breathe deeply in and out, my entire perception and emotional force field can shift in an instant. Getting quiet and reestablishing that connection to my breath and the truth behind all the thoughts swirling around in my head has become my antidote to the two P's.

Taking a deep breath and asking for my thoughts to be reinterpreted through the lens of love is the way through.

"Ego says, "Once everything falls into place, I'll feel peace." Spirit says, "Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place." –Marianne Williamson

What I’m realizing as I continue down this path is the point is not that I will never ever find myself procrastinating or feel the pull toward perfectionism, the lesson is to witness my behavior and know that I have a choice, I have the choice to choose again.

I have the choice to see the beauty in my perceived imperfections and embrace those aspects of myself with open arms.

To paraphrase something I heard Gabby say recently—every encounter is either an exchange of love or a call for love. When I think about the two P’s through that lens I feel grateful.

To me, that means that getting caught up in the story of perfecting and procrastinating is one of the ways my inner guide is helping me call out to myself for love and understanding. Those behaviors are the way I act out.

Underneath both of those things is the addiction to fear I lived with for so long that led me to find a false version of comfort in my discomfort. But I no longer feel comfortable there.

The light is my comfort zone now and the P’s are there for me to learn from.

They are there to remind me that I have a choice about how I experience my experiences. And I choose to be grateful for each moment I witness myself feeling the pull of the two P's because that awareness alone is the perfect reminder of my progress.