Have you ever been sitting on the couch, thinking about all of the things you have to do/should be doing, but can’t get up? Sort of like you’re paralyzed? Then, as you continue to sit there, you enter a self-loathing stage about the fact that you aren’t doing the things you “should” be doing? It’s almost like the more you think about the things you need to do, the more overwhelmed you get, and the more likely you are to continue to sit. And the longer you sit, the crappier you feel about yourself.
Or, are you the type to start a research paper the day before it’s due, because every time you’ve tried to start it in the last month you’ve stared blankly at the page, gotten overwhelmed, and put it off longer? And the longer you put it off, the more you beat yourself up for being “lazy?”
Yeah, me too. It’s a thing. Let’s break it down.
The phenomenon is known as Perfectionism, Procrastination, Paralysis. I prefer to call it PPP syndrome (“Triple P syndrome”) because it’s more fun.
Ahhh yes, the dreaded word. “Perfect.” As women, we are semi-programmed to strive for it (watch this amazing TED talk for further explanation http://bit.ly/2soAV6S) since birth. As humans in general (yes, guys, I know you experience this too!), we strive to be perfect. We crave approval and acceptance, and we believe that we are only worthy of these things if we are perfect.
When we’re given a task, we naturally envision how we want the finished product to look. What does it look like? You guessed it, its PERFECT! The research paper we’re about to write is going to be PERFECT. Our teacher is going to make an announcement in class about its greatness! She’s going to ask to keep it as an “example” to show other students!
Then, when it’s time to actually start the task…a litttttle voice in the back of all of our perfectionist minds creeps in. The doubter. The inner critic. We start to have thoughts like, “Who the hell do I think I am?” or “This is crap, no one will like this.” You type and delete sentences. You start an art project and crumple it up within 30 minutes. That little, inner critic consumes you to the point where you are overwhelmed and need to give up the task entirely. You can guess where this leads to…
This is a no brainer for those of us that suffer from PPP syndrome. Why should I do something now that stresses me out, when I just cram it in at the very last second?
Non-sufferer’s of PPP syndrome will say, “Doesn’t it stress you out though? Knowing the due date of something is looming and you haven’t even started?” And to you we say…
OF COURSE IT DOES.
Which leads to…
While we’re busy procrastinating, that little inner critic comes out again. We think, “Why can’t I do this?” or “I’m so lazy” or “I can’t even do this simple task” or “I’m never going to be able to succeed.”
As you can imagine, this negative, inner dialogue does not make us feel super motivated to try the task again. So we do nothing. For as long as we possibly can, right up until the last second. That way, we have NO CHOICE but to accept our work the way it is. If a paper is due tomorrow, we literally have NO TIME to second guess ourselves, which equals no time for anxiety, either.
Case-in-point: THIS. BLOG.
I recently found a note in my journal where I talked about starting a blog. Want to know what the date was?
I have so many unfinished or barely started blog posts in my “Blog” folder on my computer. I could win an award for “Most Word Documents Saved on a Computer That Don’t Even Contain a Paragraph.”
A great idea will come to me like a strike of lightning. A quick moment of brilliance! I’ll run to my computer, start to write it…and then…the critic comes:
“Is this even something people are going to care about?”
“Why would people want to listen to me?”
This leads to me getting “distracted” by something else, like watching a show, suddenly NEEDING to go through all of the crap in the bathroom cupboard (“I forgot I had this lotion from 2006!), or some other chore that I invent to detract me from the initial task.
I would like to give you some all-star advice on how to cure yourself of PPP syndrome, but the truth is I’m still searching myself.
Does anyone else feel this way? How do you overcome your own PPP Syndrome?