Procrastination & Perfectionism Go Hand-in-Hand

Today is the last guest post from my group of recovering-perfectionist friends. I hope you’ve enjoyed them and collected some of the books along the way!

Glynnis Whitwer, today’s guest, is a woman I both love and respect. I pursued her friendship from the first time I met her at She Speaks with our Proverbs 31 team because she’s smart, warm, and a woman known for her integrity.

Please welcome her today and leave a comment at the end to win a copy of her book and mine.

Taming the To-Do List_cover

Years ago, I naively thought I was decent at decorating, until people started re-doing my efforts. Whether at church or work, if I was assigned the setup of a table of any kind—snacks, desserts, book sales—someone would come along behind me and re-arrange the items.

It happened so often, that I just stopped trying. I’d laugh it off, and ask to be assigned something else. It’s hard to face a weakness.  And because I so desperately want to be good at decorating, it hurts.

When I take a step back, I can see that my standard for decorating is ridiculous.  I’m comparing my home, my income, my resources and my style to others who are truly gifted in this area.  Logically I should see those comparisons and my personal expectations aren’t fair, and give myself a break.

Only there’s this critical voice inside me that says admit defeat and give up.  In a quiet little hiss it says things like, “You’ll never be happy with the results … someone will come along behind you and do it better … you aren’t artistic … if you can’t do it well, just forget it.”

That voice has a name: Perfectionist.  And it’s not my friend.

One would think that the desire to do things well is an asset. And it is.  But perfectionism isn’t the pursuit of excellence. It’s the pursuit of perfection.

Excellence is possible is some things; perfection is possible in nothing.

Excellence pushes us to do our best; perfectionism pushes us to be the best.

Perfectionism is the enemy of learning and growing and enjoying areas of life where we haven’t achieved mastery. And we procrastinate addressing those areas for fear of feeling unsatisfied, critical, and discouraged.

Procrastination and perfectionism go hand-in-hand for me.  And one of my most memorable bouts with perfectionism was when I was writing a book on procrastination.

It was amazing what other tasks I chose to do rather than write.  They were all things I’d procrastinated, but apparently dreaded less than writing that book.

I scheduled a medical screening I’d put off for years, made a copy of a car key that required a special locksmith with a special machine, and decided to start excising again.

But write? I was paralyzed by the thought of it.  Seriously, why did I tackle a topic that only very intelligent people with lots of degrees and initials behind their name wrote on? I’m no expert!

The more I researched the topic, the more I became so consumed over what to include in the book, that I couldn’t start. Visions of people thinking they’d wasted their money just about made me sick.

Then it didn’t help that I’m friends with someone who has had three books hit the New York Times best-seller list. And although I know I shouldn’t compare my success with hers, the impossibility of writing a best seller made me want to call my publisher to quit multiple times.

Finally, I had to admit I wasn’t going to write a perfect book.  And I’m not the perfect person to write on this subject. But I have been called by God to do it.  So, since He is MUCH smarter than me, I decided I better sit down at the computer, ask for His help, and start writing, trusting God to lead me.

This was not a one-and-done conversation I had with myself. Each chapter, I had to face that same high expectation and those same fears.  What if I left something important out? What if I quoted a study that was debunked a year later, only I didn’t know it? What if a psychologist reads this and posts an angry comment on Amazon?

The perfectionist bully taunted me with dire consequences throughout the entire process of writing this book.

So how did I actually get it done?  I chose to trust God.

I know that sounds simple, but it’s really true. Years ago God challenged me to trust Him, not just say I trusted Him.  What a difference it makes.

Perfectionism directed my focus on the end result.  But when I took my eyes off the results and put them on God, perfectionism lots its grip on me.

No longer was the burden of the results squarely on my shoulders.

Just knowing God won’t let me down gave me courage to start. And He’ll do the same for you. Here is some truth from His Word:

Psalm 9:10, “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

Isaiah 42:16, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

When we are faced with a challenging assignment, one where we doubt our ability to do it perfectly, we can choose to trust God will not fail us. Assured of God’s faithfulness and His love, we can proceed with confidence, giving the work our best efforts.

GlynnisWhitwerGlynnis Whitwer is on staff with Proverbs 31 Ministries as the Executive Director of Communications. She is one of the writers of Encouragement for Today, the Proverbs 31 e-mail devotions, with over 750,000 daily readers.  She is the author and co-author of 8 books, with her latest, Taming the To-Do List, releasing last summer. Glynnis, her husband Tod, have five young-adult children and live in Glendale, Arizona.  She blogs regularly at www.GlynnisWhitwer.com.

 

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Comments

  1. Your message was just what I needed today. The Lord is to be praised for supplying what we need at the perfect time. Thank you for your valuable insights.

  2. Amen to this message. I know I feel this way so often that things may not get done for the Lord because of my fear of not doing it right! Thanks for sharing your story. Blessed,
    Joyce

  3. My multi-year work on my Master’s degree project sat in my closet for almost 2 years until I shared with someone about my struggle to write it up. She suggested I just try to get a “C” on it rather than an “A”. What a difference that made! The project was pass/fail but this shift in my outlook was enough to get me started, and finished! Loved your article.

  4. I have lived with perfectionism by utilizing it & calling it my friend…but somewhere I knew it was not a friend, it has robbed me of my freedom.

  5. Wow! Talk about a timely message! And, to think that I wouldn’t have read it had I not been procrastinating on completing a project deadline that’s fast approaching! 🙂 Thank you, so much, for the gentle reminder to focus and just get it done! Progress not perfection…

  6. Very timely for me! Thank you for the encouragement! May God continue to bless your efforts in fulfilling His Kingdom’s work through you! No angry comment here! ?

  7. Thanking GOD for HIS perfectness… perfect timing and a message that I was in need of at this very minute. Thank you!!!

  8. Comparing myself to all those who seem ‘perfect’ is something I have really been struggling with lately. Thanks for the words of encouragement.

  9. As a recovering perfectionist I totally relate to this!! I procrastinate also and end up feeling worse because I think of all the ‘what if’s’ and comparison will steal my joy….I love the reminder to trust! I am a work in progress and this is a lesson I need to learn time and time again! Thank you for your message today! <3

  10. Thank you for the message that I needed today. I always compare myself to others and feel their lives are perfect while mine is a disaster. I need to trust Jesus and know that NO ONE is perfect.

    Thanks again.

  11. I have always wanted to be “perfect” in everything I did or wrote. It never turned out perfect, but I kept on in the pursuit of the perfect results. My son told me something this month that has changed my view of how to do anything. He told me he was an 80%er. Although he gave everything his best effort, but it didn’t meet his expectations, he would say it was his 80% and that was good enough. I thought about this as I tried to rewrite a poem that needed editing. As I plowed into the work, I realized after several tries, that I could let the Lord work this problem out and leave the results in His hands. Amazingly, I felt confident that the poem sounded fine and could say it was 80% of what I desired. I felt good, knowing it reflects the fact that I am no longer chained to disappointment of being perfect. I can accept what God led me to write, and be satisfied. I look forward to reading more of about keeping my perfectionism caged and giving me the freedom to express what God has led me to do.

  12. I loved the comparison between excellence and perfection. Why oh why do I struggle with this so much — probably because I’m not perfect. Thanks for your words.

  13. It is about doing what I’m called to do and trusting God with His plans and purposes for my life instead of trying to fulfill the calling of others! Help me Lord to know and walk in that difference!

  14. Wow! What a blessing and a smack in the face the words you shared today were. 🙂 Before I even read the devotion, the title caught my attention. Thank you for allowing God to speak through your shared fears to impact me. It’s definitely been a huge blessing for me today!!

  15. Wow. This hits home hard for me. It took me until I was in my 40’s to realize that I would never be perfect. I realized I was raised by a Mom who was OCD (although I didn’t know what it was then) and that she expected me to be “perfect” in her estimation, and especially to never make waves, and never let people see the real us/me.
    It’s been a long journey home to the me God made me to be and along the way I’ve found out some incredible things. Has it been easy, no. Do I still struggle, yes. I’ve let go of a lot of things but realizing that I will never be perfect and that not everyone will like no matter what I do has been eye opening.
    Thank you for addressing this subject, one that I think more women struggle with than they may even realize.

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