As I postmarked the envelopes that included my Christmas cards and my birth announcements/thank-you's and valentines for my seven-month-old child, I wept. Why was this task so hard to complete? Why is my laundry pile continually growing and never shrinking? Why can't I finish my to-do list? Why do I feel like such a failure?
I never thought I was a perfectionist because I've always been like this, a mess, the driver of the struggle bus, a failure. That was the bio in my intrusive thoughts for so long. But the truth is that I struggle with being a perfectionist. Not just one with high self-standards, but one that believes others have the same standards for me. Add in the trenches of postpartum depression, and you've found me crushed in the middle of a rubber band ball of self-deprivation.
I knew I wanted to send out thank yous with my sweet newborn's photos on them, yet, when that time came, I was changing diapers. When the time came again, I was nursing. When the "acceptable" time was about to pass, I was on the floor of my closet, contemplating if my daughter would be better off without me. As soon as the thank you cards were considered late in my head, they became a task associated with shame. I knew full well that everyone receiving a thank you knew that our plates were full, and I hoped they knew how much we loved and appreciated them, but if I sent them a day late, I somehow also thought they would know I was failing.
I was paralyzed by perfectionism.
Procrastination perfectionism is a trait that sits at the intersection of anxiety and depression. It's a strange place to be. Part of your brain is screaming to get things done and moving so quickly through the long list that the other part gets overwhelmed and shuts down, which then cycles to that anxious part of your mind starting to belittle any other accomplishment and ends in a feeling that I can only describe as Eeyore wobbling in and parking his sad self on my couch unable to move. I start the day believing in future me, then spend the next two hating past me. If you're out of breath from that confusing run-on statement, me too, but that's how it happens, so I left it as such. However, if you read those ramblings and followed along knowing that same pain and frustration, this is for you.
You are not alone. It's okay to be overwhelmed. You are not perfect, but you don't need to be.
My mentor once said that done is better than perfect; she clearly realized my struggle with perfectionism long before I did because, admittedly, I thought she was a little wild for that statement. I understand the sentiment now, I'm thankful for it, and I want you to know it as well.
You are loved for you.
You were created for this moment.
You were created with a purpose.
You are wonderfully made.
You have a beautiful future, and today leads to it.
You are dearly loved by our Heavenly Father, and He is so very proud of you.
So I begin to undo the rubber bands around me one at a time. I want to equip you to do the same. Now I could write what feels like an entire book about this process that I'm walking through myself and will likely walk through again as I learn and grow, but I want to share the six steps quickly and simply. However, if you'd like to have a deeper chat about this, please message me; I'd love to encourage you.
How to overcome procrastination perfectionism:
Become aware: it seems obvious, but it's easy to skip. You can only grow if you are completely honest with yourself.
Release the shame: you are not a failure or a bad person if you do not meet the ridiculously high standards you have set for yourself. It's hard to admit this because I don't often believe it, but people like you for you, even the parts that you don't love. If words or actions have been done to you to indicate otherwise, it is not a true reflection of you but likely of them.
Realign your values: Going off that last point, it is essential to remember who you are in Christ and what drives you. "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10
Start somewhere: Read five pages here, and sort ten pieces of laundry there. It may look different than my ideal expectations, but it's about showing up now. There is no perfect moment, as much as our brains tell us there is. Done over perfect.
Celebrate the small: Even if you just hang up two pieces of clothes today, that's much more that you would have done had the procrastinated perfectionism been in control. So be proud!
Lay it at His feet: This is last because it's most important. I've tried every "how to overcome procrastination" method out there, but I tried it without Jesus. I needed Him in every step because it was painful. It was not easy, but His strength alone gets me through each day.
These steps are a great starting point. They also help if you realize you are stuck on a task but can't figure out why, go through each and figure out if the hold is deeper than surface level, then process it out. I learned by working through these steps that the more you start to show up in small pieces of imperfection, the easier it will become, and you'll be able to mail off those letters.
Today I finally dropped off the thank you/ Christmas/Valentine cards in the blue box, and I felt that tug of shame that I've been familiar with for so long. But as I pulled away, a musical cycled through my playlist as they often do, reminding me of a quote from it. So I insert my name and will continue to show up and be proud each day, and I pray you will get to the same place because your life is worth it.
Today is going to be a great day. And here's why: because today, today at least you're you and—that's enough.
I want to be honest about one more thing. For me to get to this point, I had a breakdown. I'm talking about a long stretch of anxiety followed by a serious season of depression where all I could do was, the bare minimum, care for my child but not myself. It often happens as such, but I'm so grateful that my breakdown led to a breakthrough.
God works miracles in our weakest points which is one of the reasons we created the Fearless Breakthrough Retreat. If you are headed towards or in the middle of a breakdown, sit in vulnerable spaces with us, and we will support you with tools and teachings that will encourage your walk with Christ so that He can orchestrate your breakthrough. March 10th-12th, more information and sign-up here.