Procrastination, Perfectionism & Anxiety

I’ve recently been chatting to Bethany Jo Lee from Project Whitespace (congratulations on your first blog-birthday!) about returning to drawing, a past love of mine. She’s been encouraging me to just do it!

But I feel completely frozen. I would actually say I have procrastinated for YEARS over drawing again. Every morning I wake up and think I really want to do some drawing today. But I simply never do it! I have the time and the tools, so why can’t I just get on with it?

Anxiety, Perfectionism & Procrastination.

I came across an article about Anxiety & Procrastination which identifies procrastination as a feature of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but which is rooted in Perfectionism.

Perfectionism has been my constant companion through life. I have this deep-rooted need in me to be the best at everything I do. If I begin drawing and I judge it as not good enough, I immediately feel disappointed and rejected by myself, so give up. Then I get angry with myself for even trying to draw because I know I’ll only do rubbish. I blame myself for the disappointment.

But now I realise I just want to draw, have  fun with it, and express myself. I judge anything I come up with so much more harshly than anybody else’s efforts. Drawing has turned into an anxiety-filled experience now. My inner critic is really mean and cutting in her remarks. It hurts…..a lot.

Plan of Action

Yesterday I wrote about mastering my mind because at the moment I’m letting it runaway with me and am getting completely lost in self-criticism, which verges on self-abuse. I think I’ve always believed that that’s how I am and I can’t do anything about it. I’ve changed my mind; I think I can stop the self-criticism, I just have to put in the effort. So here is my plan of action:

– Structure my day with short drawing sessions- maybe even fifteen minute slots to start with. That way I can easily achieve it and feel I have completed a goal. I’ve taken away the fear of a mammoth task ahead of me.

– Prepare some reference photos to draw from in advance, so I don’t spend ages working out what to draw.

– Keep a notebook by me to jot down any negativity that pops into my head. That way I’m aware of the thought processes so I’ll be in a good space to challenge them.

– Aim for quantity not quality to start with, as the actual act of drawing is what I’m aiming for at the moment- that is where I’m currently stuck. Doing some good quality work will have to come later. I could give myself the target of completing 3 sketches in a day?

– Maybe write out a little card with an affirmation or quote on, to keep me going when I start to flag (any suggestions would be most welcome :)).

 Shouty, Mean Teachers!

I constantly worry about screwing up. My brain has been so programmed to care about what others think, and to be the best, that it completely overwhelms me. I wonder if there’s a little bit of teacher-fear still left in me from my school days. We had a dragon of a deputy head-teacher at my Catholic primary school. She put the fear of God into us. If something was rubbish she’d say so: what’s this rubbish girl? What would your mother say? she’d shout and slam the book down infront of you. All the class would be watching. The silence was electric. It was humiliating and scary. Kids would get smacked infront of the class if they were naughty. Being a super-sensitive type, school made me super-anxious. So, yeah, maybe that deputy-head’s voice is still programmed into my mind. Stupid, miserable, shouty woman. At least I’ll be able to identify it now and shout back!

Links

This is a fab article: How to Let Go of Fear to LIve Passionately and Authentically.

Anxiety & Procrastination on Psych Central.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Procrastination on about.com.

Procrastination, Anxiety and the Ugly Truth About “Just Starting”. on Mindful Time Management.

Why Do You Procrastinate? on Psychology Today.

Break A Perfectionism and Procrastination Connection Now by Psychology Today

Avoiding the Challenges of Gifted Perfectionism on Suite 101.

Photo Credit: luigi diamanti

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21 thoughts on “Procrastination, Perfectionism & Anxiety

  1. crazybeanrider

    Your suggestions to start writing are right on, you are giving yourself the tools to start a project that means a great deal to you. Stick with it and you will succeed. I do the very same thing, I make lists and charts of everything I need and want to accomplish. With the diagrams and lists I am able to follow through a little bit easier. If I don’t finish I have at least started on the list or outline. I have ADD and my procrastination is so out of hand, along with focus and concentration. So I write EVERYTHING down and get much done that way. Good luck drawing as you can accomplish your goal, one tiny step at a time and your on the road.

    Reply
    1. rachelmiller1511 Post author

      Thanks so much for the encouragement- its good to know that someone with ADD can overcome procrastination; you’re probably up against more than me! Yeah I think baby steps are the way forward too.

      Reply
      1. crazybeanrider

        The last 6 months have been full of strife with family obligations, it has tested me and I am just now learning to take care of my needs as well, or I am letting bipolar and ADD win, and I can’t do that unless I want to stay stagnate.

  2. Jen

    I so understand this! I get the same with any creative activity, it sucks. But I really like your suggestions to yourself, so sensible, practical & logical – genius. Good luck! Maybe I’ll do the same with setting myself writing targets… Have a good day xxx

    Reply
      1. Jen

        Yes, definitely fiction, Stephen King is my main influence, he writes people so well. I think it is a real shame that he has been pidgeon-holed as a genre writer, albeit a mainstream one, I think that it puts people off reading him, if they are not horror fans. I actually found Lisey’s Story to be quite a beautiful love story and Rose Madder is also a great story. I could go on, but I won’t 🙂

  3. Rev Dani Lynn

    Rachel, I initially replied to your comments on my “perfection” post on my blog, but then I read the comments by a second reader after I read yours. I want to invite you to come back to my post to read her comments (intuitivejuliemarie) and my reply to her (it’s too much info to include here) because it tied into your comments. Very cool. 🙂

    Reply
  4. Dorothy

    Congratulations! Because I think your blog is so special and entertaining, I’m nominating you for the new Daisy Award! You can pick it up at my blog. Hope you participate!

    Reply
      1. Dorothy

        Sorry, I didn’t realize you didn’t know but I have two blogs and this one originated from this blog http://bipolardisordersucks.wordpress.com/

        that is where the award is and can be found. Hope you’re still interested in participating when you have time. Your blog is so filled with interesting posts and I really enjoy reading it.
        Dot

  5. NZ Cate

    Teachers like that should have been lined up and… well you get the idea. They create such damage, but I reckon you can do this inspite of her. Prove her wrong (because she was totally wrong). Good luck with it. 🙂

    Reply
  6. projectwhitespace

    Ah! I have not been here since the 4th! Lots to catch up on!
    I agree with everyone else: these are really good things for you to do as you begin painting again. I especially like the 15 minute increments and the note card with notes of affirmation.
    Here is another way to think about the process and that nasty nun. Imagine yourself as the child underneath that teacher. Look at yourself as you would a young person who you are close to. Wouldn’t you want to protect that young person from the nasty nun? Now, what would you say to that young person? Say that to the you that you were when you stopped writing. I imagine you were young. Maybe a teenager? You have a gentle heart, and I imagine that you would say very encouraging words to a young person in that situation. You would be protective of her.
    Here’s the other thing I think about–whatever we did as a young person, if we stopped doing it, especially for negative reasons, then when we return to it, if our souls have not healed from that negative thing, then when we return to that thing, we are still the same age that we were when we stopped doing it. So, if you stopped painting at 15 because of a negative reason, then when you return to it, it is as if you are 15 again when you return to it, and you might experience some of the same negativity.
    But you are older now. You have accomplished some things since then and learned some stuff. Take what you have learned, and apply it to the thing you wish to return to. Now, I am not a counselor or a psychiatrist or anything, so you can take this with a grain of salt. But this is just something I have observed in my own life, and which understanding has helped me.
    Blessings blessings in your continued journey with art!!

    Reply
    1. rachelmiller1511 Post author

      That’s brilliant, I’d never thought of it like that- that I’m still my 15 year old self when it comes to art, so I still have healing to do there. It’s not gonna go away until I work through it. That’s so helpful, it gives me hope that I can work through it! Thanks Bethany. I’ll definitely start sticking up for my inner child like you’ve suggested. Really helpful comment as always. Thank you xxx

      Reply
  7. mentalhealthtalk

    I had the exact same fear about starting to draw again and the inner-critic to boot. And perfectionism–everything had to be exact.

    I love your idea of 15min increments and all your ideas of how to keep yourself motivated. How’s it going?

    Maybe I missed it in your post but what is your main motivation for drawing? That something that may continue to drive you regardless of how bad the thoughts and procrastination it gets.

    I would love to see you post one of your drawings on your blog someday. Publishing my cartoons and getting feedback were huge for me. I still crave it because I think I am the worst cartoonist in the world! Truly. Yet, drawing takes me to a place where I am free so I continue to do it. I love doing it. And that’s enough to keep me doing it and publishing it and continuing to create opportunities to do it.

    I just did a guest post cartoon for talesoftherapy.com (WG, the blog author of talesoftherapy.com, is a cartoonist–look for it on Jul 11!) and I received his feedback that my cartoon was superb. Part of me thinks he’s just being nice but another part of me is so elated that I kept his email so I can look at it now and again.

    Also, I feel like a fraud. I don’t have any training of any sort in drawing. I can just draw stuff. So that awful teacher you have exists in me too… though mine is imaginary… but our sensitive selves don’t know the difference.

    You write such interesting posts Rachel. xoxo

    Reply
    1. rachelmiller1511 Post author

      Aw Trish, thanks for the inspiration it’s just what I need at the moment. Hearing you talk about getting out there with your cartoons is really encouraging for me. And your cartoons are great! Congratulations on your guest cartoon- can’t wait to see it!!

      My main motivation for drawing I guess is to express my inner fantasy world. I love angels, fairies and fantasy landscapes. And wildlife too. Just getting the world in my head onto paper is freeing and takes me back to my real self.. Thanks for suggesting using my motivation to drive me, I’d never thought of it that way.

      You’re so right about our sensitive selves not knowing the difference between the voice of the inner critic and that of the teacher- it doesn’t matter to our sensitivity! I also think that feeling of being a fraud exists in all of us, in many things.

      I’m really inspired by you getting out there with your cartoons and to hear that you’ve overcome these negative voices to do that.

      Thanks so much Trish for sharing that. Also for saying I write such interesting posts- that’s so great to hear, thank you! xxx

      Reply
  8. Pingback: It’s Monday….WAKE YOUR MONKEY ASS UP! « Project: M.A.O. M.O.Z.I.

  9. Pingback: Follow Your Heart | Emotional Wellness

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