They say it takes a village to raise a child. That may be the case, but it takes a lot of solid, stable marriages to create a village.

- Diane Sollee,

Austin Anxiety Resources

Procrastinators and Perfectionism – two sides of the same coin?

Stress is normal. When that anxiety becomes irrational or disabling, then it becomes an anxiety disorder. Click here for an outstanding description of the various types of anxiety disorders.

Perfectionism may seem like a desirable trait to have, but it can often turn into more of an obstacle than an asset. When you consider the fact that no one is perfect, perfectionists are setting themselves up for futility and disappointment.

Perfectionists are often procrastinators. They want to get things done, but the process of doing so is so psychologically taxing they delay starting or working on a timely basis. Their core belief is that nothing is worth doing unless it is done perfectly. Doing things perfectly ends up grinding productivity to a halt. Instead of creating a rough draft for a paper, the perfectionist tweaks every word of the first paragraph and is dismayed to see how little they’ve finished in the time allotted. Exhausted from the effort to write only a few paragraphs, and seeing the mountain of work ahead of them, perfectionists/procrastinators avoid getting back to work because they know how grueling the process will be. Perfection is borne of unrealistic expectations. In reality, outcomes don’t need to be perfect, just “good enough” to satisfy the goal. But “good enough” doesn’t satisfy the perfectionist.

Perfectionism is very often fueled by low self-esteem, and it’s sufferers frequently struggle with depression and anxiety. Instead of seeing failure as a learning experience and an inevitable part of being a human being, perfectionists interpret their mistakes as signs of their unworthiness. When you peel the onion of procrastination, one often finds a person who is really afraid their end product won’t measure up. Running out of time provides a ready excuse: I could have done better if I’d had more time. The fear is that if they put their effort in at 100%, the end product may not be adequate, which makes them, in their eyes, a true failure.

Perfectionism is often caused by having stressful relationships or stressful environments in one’s formative years. For example, overly critical and/or demanding parents could make their child prone to perfectionism by causing their children to think they must earn love through performance instead of receiving it unconditionally.

The other extreme can be just as bad, as distant parents can also cause children to feel unwanted and unworthy. Those children vie for their parents approval by trying to be perfect, never make mistakes or trouble so that the parent will accept or approve of them. Unfortunately, with overly critical parents, no effort is ever good enough. That child often grows into adulthood having unrealistic expectations of themselves and others which leads to unsatisfying relationships, disappointment in themselves and others.

How to release yourself from the grip of perfectionism or procrastination.


  • Change your view. Instead of telling yourself, “I’m a failure if I make a mistake,” — think, “mistakes give me more information to improve.” More information leads to more opportunities to get it right. Or you can try the tried and true affirmation: “making mistakes is human.”

  • Set realistic goals. Lots of time is wasted putting energy into tasks of little consequence. A memo needs not be a masterpiece; it needs to be “good enough” to convey the message.

  • Break goals into small, discrete steps that are measurable and then celebrate each success. Perfectionists often diminish the accomplishments of the small tasks because they “still aren’t done.” This all-or-nothing thinking leaves them starved for encouragement and uninspired to push on to the next task.


When my son was in third grade, he was assigned a book report project to be completed in one month. The description the teacher sent home looked mammoth, and we were both overwhelmed at first. We broke the project down into about twenty small tasks and estimated how long each task would take. Over a thirty-day period that amounted to twenty minutes per day work on the project. At the end of each twenty minute period, he celebrated his accomplishment with the reward of watching some television. He turned the project in a day early and we had hardly any wrestling matches over getting it done.

Judith Sloan-Price, LCSW is a psychotherapist and Austin marriage counselor specializing in anxiety issues for both individuals, couples, and families. You can reach her by email or by phone (512) 922-2256.

Judith Sloan-Price, LCSW

Judith Sloan-Price, Austin LCSW
For appointments, email for fastest response times:
Phone: (512) 922-2256
Fax: (512) 336-9351
Office Address:
6904 Fireoak Drive
Austin, Texas 78759