Here’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years — the more accepting I am of myself and my flaws, the less shame I surround myself with.
That’s a big deal. I never really understood the concept until I embraced one of the biggest things that I always saw as a defect — procrastination.
I loooove to procrastinate. I literally can’t get things done ahead of time if my life depends on it. High school and college papers would get done the night before, I took my NASM certification test literally a couple days before the 6 month time limit, the thank you notes for our wedding went out months after the actual event, and I didn’t memorize my speech for a conference I spoke at until the night before in my hotel room.
For many, many years I saw this as a defect. I thought that responsible people got things done early and didn’t have to work under a cloud of anxiety and deadlines. I repeatedly tried to force myself to do things early, only to remind myself that I had “x” number of days or weeks and that there were more pressing things to be done in the moment. I viewed that as a failure.
Because I couldn’t force myself to correct a behavior that I thought made me irresponsible and less-than, I always felt shame for waiting until the last minute. Mind you, I always got things turned in on time, but I viewed the way I got them done to be inferior to someone else.
I’m not sure what happened, but one day something just clicked for me. The way I was doing things wasn’t inferior, it was simply different. I was putting value judgements on things that simply were. No good, no bad, just two different ways to go about accomplishing a task.
This post is reminiscent of one that I wrote about labeling habits as good or bad (and how we should stop!). The day that I realized that procrastination was just another way to approach an action was the day that the shame I had built around it simply melted away.
There was nothing wrong with my procrastination — I simply work better under pressure. As long as I give myself time, I can sit down and get a task done. I approach procrastination in a responsible way and I’m more efficient when I know I have a limited amount of time. It’s that simple.
Most of the time my procrastination doesn’t pose a problem, but I do think I can improve when things have a deadline far in the distance. This post was inspired, in fact, by the NASM specialization that I bought for my birthday this year (in JULY). Unlike the trainer certification, the specializations allow you one year from the time of purchase to take the exam. This means that I have been staring at the textbook right next to me on this desk for almost 6 months. Whoops.
Life is full of shades of gray and middle grounds and while I don’t feel that my procrastination as a whole is impairing my work or my life, there are still elements that I’m willing to work on and improve. I may not get it done this week or next week, but I do plan to do it well before the year is up. Hold me to it.
To help draw some self-awareness to things you may get down on yourself about (and potentially allow you to find more acceptance), try going through the following steps:
1. Think of the things you view as negative behaviors.
2. Ask yourself if they are negatively impacting your life or someone else’s life around you.
3. If you feel negatively impacted by your behavior or mentality, think about what you could change to reverse that situation.
4. If you or someone else isn’t negatively impacted, don’t try and force yourself to change. Learn to accept that part of you and let comparisons go.
5. Reassess. After some time, ask yourself these same questions. If any of your answers have changed, find ways to make changes to improve your situation.
It’s not always easy and it took me several years of having lessons shown to me over and over again, but keep working at it and one day the lightbulb will go off. 🙂
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.
- Are you a procrastinator?
- What’s a behavior that you think of as negative but really isn’t?