“I’ll Do It Tomorrow!” The Story of One Perfectionist to Another
By: Jaclyn Pfingsten, LLMSW
I wanted to write a blog on procrastination…. but then I kept saying to myself, “oh, I’ll do it tomorrow!” What was holding me back from writing it? Perfectionism.
Let’s talk about it. Well, I have been meaning to write this blog post since the summer. But, I was waiting for the …perfect time… the perfect idea… and now here we are and it’s fall.
Do you sometimes feel like you struggle with perfectionism? Perfectionism can impact so many different areas of your life:
- Your relationships
- Your ability to go after your goals
- Even the way you show up in the world
Let’s talk about 5 ways perfectionism might be impacting you:
Procrastination can stem from perfectionism, as we wait for the perfect time. I talked about this in the intro to this blog. Waiting for the perfect time can hold you back from starting at all. Do you ever notice how the perfect time is always in the future? It’s always something you are going to do one day when it is the “perfect time” that never seems to come.
Perfectionists can get stuck in the planning phase. Thinking about the details and the “what ifs” that need to be assessed in order for things to be perfect. Planning can be a wonderful thing. But perfectionism is a vicious cycle. It is a constant process where you can never plan enough to actually start.
Perfectionism can lead to constant rechecking. Almost like rereading and retyping the text you were going to send over to make it perfect. Before you know it, 10 minutes have gone by!
Quitting when learning something new
We have all learned a new skill before. But, those of us who struggle with perfectionism can find it very difficult to be “new” at something. This can cause us to quit before we’ve even given the amount of time needed to be “new” and to “learn” the skill.
You might have guessed this one but perfectionism can cause anxiety. You might feel tense, on edge, or have ruminating thoughts as you strive to be perfect!
Perfectionism can stem from many different things
For example, the desire for approval or the desire to avoid rejection or ridicule. I’ll admit that I want you, yes you, the one reading this blog to benefit from what I’m writing. I want you to feel seen, heard, and validated. My desire for you is to approve of what I am writing did contribute to my procrastination. Yes, even I as an online therapist can feel the desire for approval. When I’m not careful I can also get stuck in the perfectionism loop.
You might now be asking what you can do to intervene. Or, you may ask how to change how perfectionism affects your quality of life, or ability to pursue goals.
How do we combat perfectionism?
Here are 5 ways you can begin to face perfectionism head-on:
The just get started method
You heard that right, I know it might sound cringy but it’s proven to be effective. You may have an essay you need to write, an assignment to turn in, or a goal you have had in the back of your head for so long. But, you can’t seem to get started as you ponder how perfect you want it to turn out. Instead, stop thinking, get started! Open up a Word document. Set a timer for 5 minutes to flow free as you write without the expectations of making it perfect. Once you get started you might be surprised that you can keep going! It takes some of the pressure off of the daunting task. I used this tip to write this blog!
Setting aside a certain amount of time for planning
As we talked about above, perfectionists can get caught in the cycle of “planning” with no end in sight. Set a limit for yourself for the planning phase when you find you are spending hours, days, or weeks planning and running through ideas. For example, I will allow myself one hour of planning before I “just get started” even if my plan is not perfect.
Done is better than perfect
This is one of the hardest pieces to accept. But, when perfectionism is holding you back from completing your goals, done is better than an incomplete perfect goal. If you want to apply to a certain college and want your admission essay to be perfect, you may continue to plan. Then, you may end up redoing, and not completing the essay! In many instances, done is truly better than perfect. You could miss the deadline or not apply at all because you are striving to be perfect!!
Committing to a certain amount of time/attempts before quitting
We may be prone to quitting as we are getting started. But, it can help to commit to a certain amount of time/attempts before quitting. You may think “I am going to stay at this new job for one year before I decide I am not good enough for the role.” Or, “I am going to play two seasons of soccer before I decide it is not my thing.” We then can work to cope with the uncomfortable feelings of not being the best, while we give enough time to learn.
Using mindfulness skills to cope with the anxiety
When you are attempting the 4 tips listed above, it might bring up some anxiety. After all, perfectionism doesn’t magically go away due to our intervention. It’s important to practice some mindfulness skills to help yourself cope with the anxiety that might come up. For example, bring yourself back to the present moment. Use your 5 senses to describe your present moment as it is. What can you see? Feel? Hear? Touch? Taste? In this present moment.
Working With An Online Therapist Can Offer Support with Perfectionism
If you feel like perfectionism is holding you back from showing up in the world in the way you want to or is holding you back from going after the life you want, you are not alone. These skills might help you to begin your journey to combat perfectionism but are for educational purposes only and are not a replacement for therapy. When working with a therapist you can dive deeper into your specific situations and beliefs, and you are able to learn and practice coping skills specific to your needs.
Please reach out today if you would like to set up an appointment! Remember you don’t have to wait for the “perfect time”. Reach out today and we can work through any discomfort of starting therapy together.
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