Perfectionists and Procrastination, Part I

Anne is a writer. She hit upon a great idea for an article. It would require a lot of interviews, but the idea was brilliant. She posted a segment of the work on her blog and was contacted in four hours by a publisher. Anne could turn the idea into several spin-offs, so there was a great future ahead.

If you are a perfectionist, you know the next part of the story. Anne missed the first deadline. And the next. And the project is still not complete.

Anne is a perfectionist, too. She does excellent work and doesn’t want to turn in anything less than the best.

Changing time won't change deadline

Changing time won't change deadline

If Anne follows the road of perfectionism most writers and artists (and office workers, moms, employees, and supervisors) take, she will start a dozen projects and finish none of them, because they are not “finished.” Or “quite right,” or “done editing.”

She will have another great idea, and start it, and never finish it, either. Over her lifetime, she will start a thousand projects, ideas, articles, books, blogs, and relationships. None of them will end satisfactorily; many of them will never be finished at all.

Perfectionism sounds like something everyone would aspire to, but in real life, it is a pitfall to satisfaction. Perfectionism is the enemy of “good.” Or even “great.”images-1

Don’t confuse “excellent” with “perfect.” Perfectionists are not satisfied with excellent, because there may be an  invisible flaw that someone will find. And expose the perfectionist as a fraud.

And being exposed as a fraud takes the identity from a perfectionist. And the power they hold over others. As long as they don’t hand in the project or complete the work, they hang onto their identity.

Perfectionists are driven by fear of inadequacy–and sooner or later, often sooner, they will fail. Perfectionists fear this failure so much, that they begin to control their lives, their work, their employees, their family and friends in an ever-widening circle of perfectionism. By judging other people severely,  perfectionists point to the flaws of others as a distraction from faults growing in their own lives.

They are never happy, always striving, forever hearing the threat of “fraud,” “unworthy” and “failure.”

Continue reading Part II of Perfectionism and Procrastination on Monday, Dec. 15. Discover a common cause of perfectionism and a new perspective.

-Quinn McDonald is a recovering perfectionist who helps others open the door to being great, if not perfect. See her work at QuinnCreative.com

2 thoughts on “Perfectionists and Procrastination, Part I

  1. Sounds like a familiar problem many artists and writers share. I don’t suppose Part II has an easy and perfect solution to the problem? Nah, that would be too easy.

    • As you already guessed, there is no easy, fast answer. In fact, we need our perfectionism in tiny doses, as it heads us toward greatness. Part II explains the process that makes our culture so fond of perfectionism. But as you already know, there are no shortcuts to a life well-lived. -Q

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