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How Perfectionism Leads to Procrastination | Orlando Therapist Shares


Many people think that being a perfectionist is a good thing. They think that it means you have very high standards and refuse to be anything but the best at whatever you attempt. Yet perfectionism typically comes with a high cost: anxiety and depression.

The dictionary defines perfectionism as “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.” So perfectionism isn’t just about having high standards, it’s about defining your success in a narrow way of thinking, and punishing yourself severely for any type of perceived failure. For example, “If I don’t do this paper perfectly, and get a 100% or an A, then I am an absolute failure”. This is perfectionism and it creates a great deal of anxiety and fear of failure that often leads to procrastination. As terrible as procrastination might feel, for perfectionists it produces less anxiety and is safer than the possibility of failure.

Procrastination is a complex issue that very frequently affects perfectionists. In our work with perfectionists, at GroundWork Counseling in Orlando we have found that many of our perfectionistic clients who procrastinate are afraid of being imperfect. They have come to believe that their self-worth and their achievements are intricately linked. In short, if they have done something perfectly, then they are good, if they have not done something perfectly, then they, as a person, are bad. Because being perfect is an unobtainable goal for all human beings, perfectionists set themselves up for inevitable failure.

This explains why so many perfectionists procrastinate: instead of dealing with the anxiety and pain an imperfect outcome produces, they put off the project or work until the very last possible minute. Procrastination should not be mistaken for laziness – in the perfectionist, procrastination isn’t laziness, it’s fear of failure. The perfectionist is often afraid to try, so instead, they don’t begin. Studies have found that individuals who procrastinate tend to postpone the tasks necessary to achieve their goal, have poor time managements, and are task aversive. Prior to and after their deadline, procrastinators experience high levels of anxiety, low levels of self-control and intense worry and stress. By focusing on the possibility of failure, especially when this potential failure involves criticism or negative evaluation by others, the perfectionist instead tried to ignore or avoid the unknown outcome by procrastinating. Research has determined that perfectionists who procrastinate have a severe sensitivity to perceived and actual criticism and negative evaluation by others. Not only are perfectionists sensitive to other’s criticism, they are extremely harsh self-critics.

At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, we can help you to become aware of your unrealistic standards, help you to set attainable goals, confront your fear of failure and teach you to be less critical of yourself without sacrificing your ability to achieve and be successful. Our expert Cognitive Behavioral Therapists (CBT) can help you to aim high while helping you to learn how to forgive yourself, accept that as a human being you are going to make mistakes, learn from your experiences and move forward.


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Portland, ME 04101

Burlington, VT 05043

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