My perfectionism and procrastination have plagued me my whole life. When I was a child, my parents gave me a new set of pencils. I only sharpened one pencil and used that one pencil until it was all used up. I then systematically went onto the next pencil and the next and so on. This was not an isolated case. Obsessive-compulsive you may say? Hmm…
Although I now have far fewer idiosyncrasies, I am still plagued by the remaining perfectionism and procrastination that it causes. This article is the result of many separate introspections and realisations. I will attempt to be as clear as possible. As such I will tell events as they occurred in chronological order.
This next section is written by Aria and was the first step in realising my perfectionism and procrastination were linked:
I never wanted to control my boyfriend. If I ever did that with my past relationships, I can’t remember, but in this relationship, I did my best to keep away from manipulating or misleading Kelham. I tried my best to come clean with my thoughts, no matter how horrible they may be.
I’m also the type of person who enjoys taking responsibilities. My parents were quite low energy and low motivation. So when I finally left home I felt so happy and empowered to take matters into my own hands. I loved cleaning my own house, ironing my own clothes, cooking for myself what I wanted when I wanted, etc.
So when Kelham came into my life, I immediately felt like I have to take responsibility for his happiness and well being. Whatever he asked for I was quick to fulfil. Whatever questions he had I was quick to answer and give guidance. I felt like I was a good person to be doing all of this. I even took pride in it.
I never noticed how it was wearing me out. Just last week I felt as if I was taking care of a child.
Today we had quite the dramatic fight that revealed something crucial. Apparently, Kelham has been feeling subjugated, but here’s the catch … he was actually subjugating himself to me.
Kelham had this fear of doing something wrong. Even the little things like putting a flower pot in the wrong place in the veranda. So he would always ask if it’s ok to do it, no matter what it might be.
This all seems appropriate until he realized that he was doing it out of fear and with a hint of accusation. This is because he already expected to get a frustrated or negative answer from me, even though this was seldomly the case.
Because he feared to make the wrong decision, he would put the pressure and responsibility of allowing it on someone else. All this time I thought I was being helpful and responsible for our relationship but it was, in fact, feeding his insecurities. And his attitude was also wearing him out because who wants to constantly ask for permission before doing anything from some overlord?
The bad attitude: Can I move the pot here? Is it ok if I put it there? Make a decision already because the sun is too harsh for the plants and they’re dying!
The good attitude: I think the sun is killing the plants so I’m going to move the pots. (wait 5 seconds, if there’s no negative response, proceed)
We came to some realisations that night, but I did not realise their significance until much later. Why don’t I take responsibility? Why do I give my power away? The answer came to me after another introspection. It came to me in the form of two quotes:
“It’s hard to admit that you’re not perfect”
“I put the responsibility on others so I don’t make mistakes, thus I am perfect”
I did this because I wanted to shift blame. Growing up, my brother was seen as the “golden child”, whilst my sister was seen as the “black sheep.” I so badly wanted to be that golden child. I wanted respect, I wanted praise, I wanted to be accepted. I did not want criticism, I did not want to be shunned from the family. When I have no responsibility, I cannot take my life in the direction of my choosing. I would prefer to be powerless than rejected from my social group. In the wild, that would have meant death.
The need for change:
Several weeks passed before I came to my second realisation. I had been worried about my poor productivity for weeks now and at the same time not really achieving anything. I attempted to relax and to realise that there are cycles of ups and downs in terms of productivity and that I just need to allow it to pass, but under all of this was a strong feeling of crippling stress that I will never get out of the cycle. I will never be productive again.
I came across an infographic that helped me connect my perfectionism to procrastination. I figured that being a perfectionist was the reason and that I need to “just” stop it. Easy, right? Hah.
The realisation I came to:
I am not ready to succeed.
I am not ready to succeed because I am deathly afraid of failure. I am such a perfectionist because of the criticism I tried to avoid that I become paralysed to progress. I will never succeed until I accept the possibility that I won’t ever succeed.
*”I can’t be productive when Aria isn’t around. I don’t see any point in doing anything when it’s just for myself.”
As you may well know from “Why I could not commit to life” I have been struggling with apathy since I came out of the womb. I have been remarkably productive since I met Aria, but I realised a while back that I am only productive when she is around. When she is asleep or away or anything like that, it is dead time for me.
I decided to go for a walk on my own. I went to the nearby park which has a very large water fountain in it. I sat directly in front of this water fountain. Doing this helps me focus by providing white noise to my brain. I sat for probably an hour thinking about all sorts of issues. Near the end of the hour I welled up with tears because I realised how badly I treat myself.
I am very hard on myself. No shit, I’m a perfectionist. However, I am SO hard on myself that I would rather not try at all than fail and get self criticism for it. I would rather enslave myself to someone else than work for myself because of it. I can’t work while Aria isn’t around because the validation I get from the one I subjected myself to is gone. Why bother?
Perfectionism and procrastination related? 100%. Perfectionism is a curse.
What I am doing about it:
Realising this has been incredibly freeing. I treat myself with way more tenderness and it makes me sad whenever I think of how I’ve criticised myself for every small mistake I have made in the past. Who am I being perfect for? It sure as shit ain’t me.
Treating myself as important is the way forward. Now I actively stop myself from trying to satisfy Aria, from trying to satisfy the inner twin of my parents in my head, from trying to satisfy society.
My main goal is now to meet my needs first and only then consider others. For the whole of my existence, it has been the other way round. Is that not backward?