I have been a “perfectionist” my entire life. I have always been the one to stress over the smallest details and feel the need to complete everything to the best of my ability. This was most notable in high school, but it was in grade 11 that my procrastination started getting bad. The rapid rise of social media in my life most definitely had something to do with it – and continues to do so. Managing time away from your phone is something many people have trouble dealing with in today’s fast-paced world.
Nevertheless, even with procrastination present, my perfectionism prevailed – which just meant more stressing, more sleepless nights, and, dare I say it, more excuses for myself. Yup. I am here to admit it and here to make some of you realize it for yourself, especially if you can relate to anything I have mentioned so far.
Perfectionists can be the worst slackers. Now, this does not seem to make any sense. However, after the entirety of my three months taking second-year Social Psychology at Queen’s, I have learned a few things – one of which really stood out to me. There is a cognitive strategy called “self-handicapping,” (Myers et al., 2018). This strategy is one that stood out to me as I found I could relate to it. My self-reflection began this past month after our first MUSE pitch workshop over zoom, led by my lovely editor Katherine. We were discussing our best pitching strategies and where we got our inspiration. I talked mostly about how my best ideas come to me at the last minute when I sit myself down at the computer and force myself to think of topics because the deadline is quickly approaching. I used to believe this was true. Besides, it was similar to other things I would tell myself:
“My best writing is done late at night” (hours before the deadline)
“I do my best studying in the evening, I can’t focus in the morning” (which leaves me less time to learn the content)
“I like all-nighters, I get more work done,”
The list goes on and on. And now, thanks to my psych notes (which were probably written sometime around 2 am), I have noticed an unfortunate pattern webbed with lies I have been telling myself all these years. To quote my Social Psychology textbook, “Individuals sometimes create their own obstacles for success, so that future failure can be blamed on these external factors” (Myers et al., 2018).
Boom. In one sentence, my entire mantra, my go-to-lines, my excuses, were outed for what they really were: self-sabotage. I found it hard to believe at first, but it makes perfect sense. Perfectionism comes with a load of stress. And pressure – one thing I can say I have had on me my entire life. It is a constant at this point. And everywhere, in everything I do. The pressure to succeed, do well in school, surpass goals, achieve high standings, the pressure to impress, be likeable, be confident and assured in whatever I do… the list, once again, goes on and on. My point is, I know and feel pressure all too well, which makes this whole self-sabotage thing more believable. I hate to admit it, but maybe my subconscious has been pulling this stunt to give myself excuses for when I know I haven’t performed to the best of my abilities. When I don’t achieve the best mark, for when I struggle or feel lost, and sometimes for when I even fail. Since there is an excuse, it’s considered alright in my mind.
“Well, I was up super late studying, I just didn’t get enough sleep,”
“Omg I worked on that assignment all night, I was too tired to catch those mistakes,”
“It was last minute anyway so I couldn’t have expected it to be my best.”
Excuses on excuses for my perfectionist self to survive off. So, now that the problem has been identified, I figured it was time to fix it. Many resources online have tips and tricks on where to start: which involve realizing it is happening. An example of this could be when you have a quiz or assignment due at night, but it’s only 2 pm. I have tons of time, I would think to myself as I collapse onto my bed, phone in hand. At that moment, it is important to understand what is happening and think about what your future self will think back about it. I have often found myself wishing that I had started working on something earlier than I have, yet I never change. Well, it’s time to start. And so far, I have found that thinking about those circumstances helps a lot. Revisiting them brings you back to that headspace and feeling a little bit of stress – enough to get you going. If we can realize we can prevent that feeling from happening in a few hours, it can help get a head start on studying for that quiz or completing that assignment.
Everything is easier said than done, and I am still trying to work on it. Once again, phones are such a large part of the problem; it is quite ridiculous. So, pertaining to that, I recommend putting your phone out of reach when you sit down to grind some work out. Out of sight, out of mind rings true for many things, and scrolling through social media is one of them. Just placing my phone out of reach and sight is a big step to getting into the studying mindset and a great place to start.
All this being said, here I am, writing this at 1 am, knowing fully well I haven’t finished my notes for my quizzes tomorrow. Is this another manifestation of my self-handicapping alter ego? Possibly. Or I just had this epiphany and had to write it down before I forgot, and it turned into an entire article. Either way, I am so not ready for stats tomorrow…
SOURCE: Myers, David, et al. Social Psychology. Seventh Canadian Edition. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, 2018.
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