Crazy = Genius: The Life of a Perfectionist

Every day, I roll out of bed (after several alarms), scramble to get ready, and run off to my class. This is stressful, but hey, I got to sleep in and I made it on time! I sit quietly in class typing my notes and replaying my to-do list over and over. I double check Canvas to establish priorities, and then the buzzing in the back of my head starts: I need to get my assignment done. I should have started it a few days ago. It’s okay. I’ll get it done. I always get it done. The day goes on and finally I sit down to do the assignment. Sometimes it is an essay, a quiz, a not-so-short, short answer, an art project, or  my extra-curricular oddities. I should be doing something at any given moment. If I did, I would be relatively stress free and ahead of the game. I don’t. According to Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. I guess I am insane; however, I am also quick on my feet and determined as hell; that is what makes me just a great procrastinator.

Procrastination is the alter-ego of my perfectionism. I procrastinate incessantly until the absolute last minute and in a rushed, focused fashion I pull a polished product from where the sun don’t shine. The focused person that emerges from the stress is how I have excelled at most things in my life. So why would I want to stop her? I want to find excellence on my own and grow in other strengths. I want to create a stress-free lifestyle. I want to be perfect enough for me, and be okay with some mistakes, and forget the feeling of drowning in anxiety.

Seems weird right? Why would procrastination be a symptom of perfectionism? Procrastination walks hand in hand with perfectionism because perfectionists fear failure and “less-than” finished products. We “plan” our process and plan a way to excite it, we even plan how to deliver it properly and how to make it perfect, so we can present it with pride. Perfectionists put this process off (against our better judgment) because we trust our stressed skills more than our relaxed skills to whip it out in a jiff. Procrastination is an art. It is systematic and a well-established trade, especially in school. Here’s some tips to satiate your perfectionist alter-ego. 

Stop Procrastinating:

  1. Just take the first step. Stop planning and stalling. Just do it! This creates momentum and you are less likely to stop and put it off more.
  2. Start with the most daunting task. This will make the other ones seem easier to you and (again) will start your momentum and motivation to get more done.
  3. Make a decision. Any decision. Trust your gut. It will be alright and if you have to backtrack a little, okay. Mistakes are healthy and a part of growth and success.
  4. FINISH something. Perfectionists often stop in the middle of a task, so they do not have to face potential failure at the end. Finish your task and celebrate the results, good or bad. Check it off the list and let yourself acknowledge your accomplishment.  
  5. Acceptance. When you accomplish something accept you did your best and celebrate yourself. Celebrating the little things can be so empowering! Especially when others celebrate with you. It can also make the bigger celebrations less intimidating, so you can truly celebrate yourself. You are awesome!

Some Skills to “Perfect”:

  1. Release the “All or Nothing” mindset! This mindset reinforces the fear of failure; when you let it go you also let the fear go. You then able to accomplish more powerfully and you are able to accept celebrations and mistakes within the same achievement.
  2. Set reasonable expectations. Someone said to me once that “exactions are premeditated disappointments.” I have never forgotten that. Being a perfectionist, I expect far too much of myself and often fail to reach them to my satisfaction. Know yourself and trust your capabilities –but never sell yourself short. You are capable of incredible things, you just might not be able to change the world in the next half an hour. That is okay.
  3. Respect and love yourself: Understand failure and mistakes happen and they do not define you. They are merely milestones on your way to success.
  4. Success looks different to everyone. Define what your success looks like and the milestones it may have –those are successes too.
  5. Let it go and be patient with yourself. 

Remember crazy sometimes does equal genius and you are an intelligent, capable being. Insanity may prod at our success and these steps may not help satiate your perfectionism every day. That is okay. Try again tomorrow. Even now, I struggle. Some may look at this as a failure to follow these steps. To me, it is just another opportunity to test my ability to trust my skills to get me through and to brutally remind me to start earlier next time. It is a process of redefining my successes and triumphs.