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Procrastination or Perfectionism?

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

As perfectionists, we are constantly at war with the world.

We know we’re capable of so much. We want only to do our best at all times.

And sadly, it simply isn’t possible. That’s what drives us nuts. We yearn, with all of our heart and soul, to express something absolutely perfect.

But life, by its very nature, prevents this.

Perfectionism is keeping you from getting started and achieving your goals. It’s one of the reasons you procrastinate. You get anxious and your fears take over your life.

“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

— Brené Brown

Perfection Is Good Right?…

We all know that procrastinating is bad. Just the word has a negative ring to it. So if that is one side of the coin, then perfectionism must be good right??..


Procrastination and perfectionism form a never ending loop that wreaks havoc on you mental health, productivity, and happiness.

Despite often being high achievers, perfectionists’ feelings of satisfaction about achievement are temporary because they believe there is always more to do, be and accomplish.

Perfectionists are their own harshest critics, frequently berating themselves over any small things that went wrong.

Perfectionists tend to do things in fits and spurts, starting off gangbusters, only to collapse in exhaustion.

Copy of Hidden Benefits of Procrastination

Personality Traits Of A Perfectionist

There are quite a few personality traits that make a person exhibit perfectionistic behaviors. Here are a few of the common traits of a perfectionist.

  • They are extremely competitive about almost everything.
  • Perfectionist feel secretly judgmental of people who fall short of perfection.
  • They imagine others admire and value them for only their high level of achievement and production.
  • As a person that feel like they are not “good enough” the way they are.
  • No matter what they achieve, the feelings of satisfaction are temporary. There is always more to do, be, and accomplish.

It seems like being a perfectionist should lead to perfection, but so often the opposite is true. 

Types of Perfectionism

Perfectionism may seem simple on the outside but under it all there a few different forms and presentations of perfectionism. Understanding the differences and how they originate can be helpful in overcoming those behaviors.

Self-Oriented Perfectionism

The first of the two main forms of perfectionism is: Self-oriented perfectionism.This form consists of beliefs that striving for perfection and being perfect are important and is characterized by setting excessively high standards and having a perfectionist idealization of oneself.

Socially-Prescribed Perfectionism

The second main form of perfectionism is: socially prescribed perfectionism. This consists of beliefs that others have high standards for oneself and that acceptance by others is conditional on fulfilling these standards

So, self-oriented perfectionism is an internally motivated form of perfectionism whereas socially prescribed perfectionism is an externally motivated form.

Learn more about internal and external motivations here.

Researchers have found that within each of these forms of perfectionism there are two dimensions: perfectionistic strivings and perfectionistic concerns.

Perfectionistic Strivings

This dimension was found to be associated with positive characteristics, processes, and outcomes such as conscientiousness, adaptive coping, and positive affect and also higher levels of well-being and mental health.

Perfectionistic Concerns

In contrast, the dimension of perfectionistic concerns are the traits that are considered neurotic, unhealthy, or maladaptive such as concern over mistakes and doubts about actions.

People with dysfunctional perfectionistic concerns are likely to avoid situations that may require the person to try to meet his or her perfectionist standards; for example, procrastination.

Perfectionism and Mental Health

The dysfunctional thinking of perfectionism can be toxic, often leading to discouragement, self-doubt and mental exhaustion. 

According to a recently released study by the University of Western Ontario, there is a strong link between perfectionism and suicide.

The study, published in the Journal of Personality, found that 56 percent of those who had committed suicide exhibited a “perceived external pressure to be perfect.”

This wasn’t the first study to find a link between perfectionism and suicide. There is over 50 years of research that implicates perfectionism as a key cause in suicides.

Most people who strive for perfection do not commit suicide, but there are millions of perfectionists who struggle with the negative consequences of perfectionism everyday. One of those main consequences is anxiety.

Putting it off doesn’t make it go away. Getting it done does.

— Ned Hallowell, Driven to Distraction

Perfectionism can stem from a variety of things. For some people, perfectionism starts at childhood due to pressure from parents or other factors that create feelings of anxiety. For others, perfectionism is brought on by a desire to control the world around them. For this reason, anxiety can often lead people to become perfectionists.

Anxiety due to perfectionism can manifest itself in a variety of ways. In general, perfectionists often set unrealistic expectations for themselves. As a result, they are often hindered because they struggle to meet those expectations and this causes anxiety.

Unfortunately people who strive for perfection often experience the opposite outcome of what they are trying to achieve.

This largely has to do with the ways in which perfectionism contributes to procrastination. People striving for perfection often spend far too much time on work, projects, and other tasks because they waste time trying to make them perfect.

Perfect is Impossible.

Perfectionism and Procrastination

Unfortunately people who strive for perfection often experience the opposite outcome of what they are trying to achieve. This largely has to do with the ways in which perfectionism contributes to procrastination.

People striving for perfection often spend far too much time on work, projects, and other tasks because they waste time trying to make them perfect.

According to a study by researchers at York University, procrastination often stems from the fear of disapproval.The study looked at 131 college-aged individuals and found a strong link between procrastination and perfectionism. The drive to be perfect often creates anxiety, and to avoid this feeling people can put off doing things, which in turn makes them feel more anxious;

It’s a vicious circle.

This is what leads to procrastination.

People put off doing the projects and tasks they want to excel at because they are afraid they will fail or they are afraid of what others will think if it’s not perfect. But by putting these things off they often have trouble getting things done on time or even completing things at all.

“One common belief about the nature of procrastinatory behavior is that it stems from excessively high standards”. While this is true, research by Solomon and Rothblum (1984) found anxiety, perfectionism, and low self-confidence to all be additional contributing causes of increased procrastination.

Tips To Overcome Procrastination Stemming From Perfectionism

Adjust Your Standards.

How do other people do it? Are they still getting acceptable results? Are your exacting standards worth the cost in terms of time, negative emotions and adding new members to the already long list of people who can’t stand dealing with your expectations?

Half Ass It and See What Happens

Try relaxing just a bit. Were your worst fears realized? Did you get fired if the proposal wasn’t perfect? Did the world stop turning? Probably not.


About anything. Do it often. Having a sense of humor about ourselves and our actions, especially embarrassing or disappointing experiences, doesn’t have to be a shield or form of protection. Humor can heal or at least create enough dopamine and endorphins to get us through the tough moments.

Final Thoughts

“Don’t aim at success — the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.”

Victor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning

I’m going to lay it all out on the table here.

Perfectionism is not doing you any favors. It’s not making your life easier, or more joyful, or more productive. It’s not making you more liked, or more successful, or more respected. It’s only harming you.

So why do you fall for it?

You have the power to silence that nagging voice inside your head.

Be confident.

Be real.

Be YOU in all of your flawed, spectacular glory.

Stop wasting time with the meaningless shit that doesn’t matter.

Even for us non athletes, listen to Nike’s advice and Just Do It.

Perfect is overrated anyway.

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