I used to be a champion procrastinator. If procrastination was an Olympic sport, I could win a gold medal… if I ever got around to it. And I came by it honestly! Procrastinating is a family trait, passed down through the generations. All joking aside though, the fact is that procrastination is something that’s haunted me for my entire life. And it’s never served any purpose in my life except to cause chaos, stress, confusion and condemnation from myself and others. It caused major damage to my relationship with myself. What happens to a relationship when one party continually makes promises they never keep? That’s what happened with me, myself and I. After years of promising myself that I’d stop procrastinating and get on all these things I needed to do… and then not following through? I no longer trusted or believed in myself.
I realized many years ago that my urge to procrastinate was deeply connected to my perfectionist leanings. To me, perfectionism felt like there were only two options in life – to be perfect or to be a failure. And since I was too flawed to be perfect, much of my existence was lived feeling like a failure. Take it from me when I say this is an incredibly painful experience. My feelings of perfectionism, which are also a remnant of family history, often led to me putting things off. Why rush into something when I knew I would only fail anyway? Why hurry into that kind of pain?
As I’ve done some personal development and examined these urges closer, I’ve discovered a couple of things. The first one is a connection between procrastination and unworthiness. This realization actually came to me via Louise Hay. Just before the New Year, while wrestling with the dilemma of wanting to take action in key areas of my life but feeling a strong urge to procrastinate, I decided to do a Google search on what Louise Hay has to say about procrastination as her work has made a huge impact on my life in other ways. According to her, procrastination is an outward manifestation of a belief of unworthiness. If I believe that I am not worthy of something, then I will delay receiving it.
The second thing I realized was that in addition to a belief of being unworthy, I was also suffering some crossed wires when it came to my motivation. This was actually pointed out to me by a friend not that long ago. When we were talking about me wanting to overcome procrastination. he looked at me and said “I honestly think that a lot of that stuff you just don’t really give a shit about”. I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor because he totally nailed it. You see, as it turns out a lot of the stuff on my mental “to-do” (or “not to-do”) list came from things I felt I should be doing or being, things I felt would get me the approval or external status (cleanest house, healthiest dinner, laundry with least amount of time in the drier), that would demonstrate that I’m good enough. But they didn’t come from my being, they came from a place of shoulding. And even if they seemed like they were important, deep down I really didn’t connect with them.
The thing is as a procrastinator (former) I’ve read a lot (a lot a lot a lot) about how to overcome procrastination. And unfortunately a lot of the advice out there seems to come from a fear-based or shaming perspective. Here’s a bulletin for non-procrastinators, or perhaps different kinds of procrastinators, not the perfectionist one: Like most people with challenges, we know what’s going on. I know how much time is going by, what I’m giving up by not obtaining my goals and how much better I could be doing if stopped leaving things to the last minute. Believe me, I get it. Trying to shame me or ramp up my fear to help me stop procrastinating never worked for me and never will. There’s enough of that in the mix already that adding more just bogs the whole thing down.
What I’ve really needed to learn in order to overcome procrastination is that I don’t need to be perfect to be enough. I’ve needed to learn how to accept myself, all of myself, unconditionally. I needed to learn to no longer feel like a failure, even when I’m awkward, or have a messy house, or don’t floss or have to ask for help or yell at my kids or any of the million other things that in my head used to delineate lack of worth. And I needed to learn how to connect with myself, deep down. To listen to the small still voice inside that’s guiding me to what I really want to do so I can start acting from the place of being, and start creating in the world what only I am uniquely able to create.
To be honest, I find that sometimes I still have the urge to put things off. But what I’ve started to do instead of beating myself up for procrastinating again, is listening to that urge. Because it’s usually what I need most at the time: to take a break, to slow down, to reflect, and to be present with myself and others. And when I listen and pause, instead of trying to just pushing on, I finding I am creating more in my life and in the world, not less. And it’s a true expression of myself, my authentic gift to the world.
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