I am one of those tragic figures who is both a perfectionist and a procrastinator. How can this be? Well, I am such a perfectionist that the very idea of failure terrifies me to the core of my being. I am so afraid of doing things wrong that I am afraid to start, because I will probably not do it, whatever "it" is, perfectly and correctly. So I have to wait around until the fear of failure-by-not-finishing-at-all becomes greater than the fear of failure-by-not-doing-it-perfectly. Once the scale tips the balance, I can then scramble to try and get it done in the little remaining time, my normal fear of imperfection having been overwhelmed by the terror of it not being completed by the deadline. If this doesn't sound like a healthy pattern to you, that is good, because it isn't. But let me tell you, it works. In high school, college, and graduate school, I became skilled at balancing those fears and I was a successful student, but often a miserable one.
Now that I am out of school, I have found that this strategy doesn't work as well in normal life. My job and life have few deadlines, so the fear of not doing a task perfectly doesn't have any counterbalance. Effectively, that means I spend most of my time with a to-do list that I never properly tackle, and so I am always haunted by things that should be done and aren't, which is not a pleasant way to live. It might seem as though self-imposed deadlines are the answer, but let me assure you that they are not. Self-imposed deadlines cannot generate nearly enough dread to counterbalance my perfectionism, because part of my fear of deadlines is my desire to please other people. If I get it done by the deadline that no one knows about, it still very well could be imperfect, and since no one knows about that deadline, I will hang on to it so I can agonize over it for as long as I actually have, which could be forever.Read More