Procrastination and Self-forgiveness
We’ve all experienced it. We’ve all read and watched uncountable articles and videos about it. We’ve listened to gurus tell us how to combat it, how bad it is for us, how we need to learn to be “productive”.
We know the meaning of the word. The action of delaying or postponing something.
We try, we really try. But we inevitably end up procrastinating at some point. Then comes the guilt. The self-deprecation. Gurus’ voices telling us about how winners don’t procrastinate. How they organize. How they plan. How they make perfect use of their time. How they are oh so marvelous and how much they succeed in life. (What’s success anyway? Maybe we need to talk about that.) Then we hate ourselves even more, thank you very much. Just what we needed.
But do we know why we fall into such ungracious state?
I see these are the most usual reasons:
It could be fear of the results. That we won’t be able to make whatever we have to do right. It could be fear of what others might think. That we’ll make a fool of ourselves and we’ll be the laughing stock of everyone. Fear of failure of any nature will paralyze us, so ultimately, we won’t be able to fail at all. Most art-making procrastinations fall in this category.
Why won’t you ever do the dishes until you’ve used up all your clean ones? Why do you leave all your administrative tasks until the day before deadline? You can fill this one with endless sentences like these. The answer is pretty simple, but somehow embarrassing: you don’t like doing those things!
Have you asked yourself why is it that we feel embarrassed for not liking to do something? Is it really connected to your value as a person?
It’s not easy
Here’s when we don’t enjoy the process because it’s hard, complicated, and tiring. We know we can do it, but hate every minute of it. So can we really blame ourselves if we’re not prone to do something that makes us feel that way?
Then, there’s a special kind of procrastination. This kind hits hobbyists the most. People who enjoy doing something, but they don’t make a living out of it, so they feel “they’re wasting their time” when they are doing it. Even if they fully enjoy it, unconsciously they don’t give themselves permission to do it. So they end up procrastinating an activity they really like, and feel miserable because, at the end of the day, it’s all work, no play. If you fall in this category, you’re not alone. This world insists in “productivity” (another topic to discuss in a full article), so every goddamn value is measured against that.
Another way of looking at it
I’m not here to tell you how to stop procrastinating. I’m here to try and understand why we do it, so you can be a little more empathetic with yourself. We’re usually measured, and we measure ourselves, against collective, cultural values. Values that were imposed onto us, but did not necessarily choose.
But isn’t it logical that we leave something that we dread doing for a later time? Isn’t it obvious that we will avoid what we fear for as long as we can?
I’m not saying don’t do anything you don’t like. Many times, we don’t have a choice. I’m just trying to stop you from beating yourself up if you find yourself procrastinating. Once you understand it, you can stop linking your self-worth with how much or how little you procrastinate, and approach it from a more practical point of view.
You’re not “lazy”. You just act based on what you feel, and that’s natural. Emotions are the fuel that moves us into action. Knowing this, if you conclude you need it, you can start adjusting your goals, expectations and beliefs according to yourself, who you are, what you need, and what you value.
We pressure ourselves to be what we’re “expected” to be, and we forget about ourselves along the way.
Maybe it’s time to think about what you value. And evaluate if all of the values you already have rooted within yourself are good for you.
Barbara Din is a visual artist, graphic designer, painter, interior designer, crafter, musician and writer living in Argentina.