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The Perfectionism-Procrastination Cycle

Updated: Jan 17


Perfectionism-procrastination cycle

Perfectionism, the relentless pursuit of flawlessness, often leads us into a trap of procrastination and a fear of failure. In this fast-paced world, the pressure to be perfect can be overwhelming, hindering our progress and impacting our mental well-being. Perfectionism can also lead to lower self-esteem or self-efficacy as our productivity becomes a measure of worth.


Perfectionism comes in various forms, each with its own set of challenges.

  • Self-oriented perfectionism, where we set unrealistically high standards for ourselves, can create a constant sense of inadequacy.

  • Other-oriented perfectionism, the fear of not meeting external expectations, can lead to chronic people-pleasing.

  • Socially prescribed perfectionism, the belief that others expect perfection from us, intensifies the pressure we feel.

The Perfectionism-Procrastination Cycle:

Perfectionism often fuels a destructive cycle of procrastination. The fear of falling short or making a mistake can paralyze us, leading to avoidance behaviours. All-or-nothing thinking, a hallmark of perfectionism, contributes to this cycle, making it challenging to start or complete tasks. This cycle often unfolds in the following way:

  1. Setting Unrealistic Standards

  2. Fear of Falling Short

  3. Procrastination as a Coping Mechanism

  4. Avoidance Behaviours

  5. Increased Anxiety and Stress

  6. Rush to Completion or Last-Minute Efforts

  7. Temporary Relief Followed by Self-Criticism

  8. Reinforcement of Unrealistic Standards

Breaking this cycle first starts with recognising these patterns. Your specific cycle may not look exactly like the one above which is why it is important to recognise your unique cycle. Then, we want to understand your perfectionism and what function it plays. Perfectionism often comes from a place of fear, so what are we afraid would happen if we failed or didn't meet the expectations? Were they our expectations or someone else's? If we fail, what would that mean about us? Would that impact our worth?


Breaking the perfectionism-procrastination cycle can feel like an up hill climb. You might even notice this cycle come up in response to the thought of breaking the cycle (how convenient). I encourage you to map out your unique cycle and get curious about why it is here and what function it is serving.

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