Post contributed by Emma Caddy
This is a huge topic for me.
Procrastination is the act of not acting, of putting off something (or everything). In my case procrastination kept me perpetually stuck in a prison of inaction where I could see what I needed to do, but I was unable to physically move towards it.
I used to procrastinate about EVERYTHING. When I was eventually diagnosed with Major Depression and Anxiety, some of my procrastination began to make sense, or at least to have a reason behind it.
This was the battle with myself to get out of bed, to get dressed, to get moving, especially in the morning.
Some of my procrastination was a part of my anxieties and fears. The more I worked with my Doctors and practiced CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), the more I challenged my inaction.
However, I was still procrastinating over things I knew I could do. Things like cleaning, putting things away, my studies. I would set myself up so everything was ready, plenty of time set aside, all my procrastination strategies in place – and still find myself completely paralysed by any move towards action.
It was a horrible state to be in. I felt I could not trust myself or count on myself no matter how important something was. I got angry with myself for inaction, making me feel worse, leading to more inaction. It was a vicious circle I was perpetuating for myself.
I remember as a teenager, procrastinating on school work, watching Oprah. She was asking people if they could have anything in the world, what would they want. People replied with “a million dollars”, “a mansion”, “a beach body.”
I sat there watching and thought that if I could have anything in the world, I would ask to change me so I wouldn’t procrastinate. I hated myself so much for it.
I wouldn’t even have fun while procrastinating. I would just feel awful and angry at myself at my inability to do what I promised myself I would do.
I was in a very painful place.
Four years ago, after an incredible amount of work on my self and forgiveness, I finally had the penny drop, the AHA moment on procrastination.
I grew up in an outwardly perfect family. Inside it was a home of dysfunction and continuous, exaggerated criticism.
At an early age, I made an unconscious decision to keep myself safe. I decided the best way to do this was to not do anything.
My sister, X, was reflecting for me my deep rejection of myself (something I would not realise until my late 20s) would criticise me for any action. When drying the dishes, which I didn’t do well enough and took to long to do, she would criticise me for putting a dish on the wrong bench, no matter which bench I put it on. If I tried to beat her logic and put it straight in the cupboard, well no, I should put all the dishes in the cupboard at the same time rather than one at a time, and then I was told I hadn’t put the dish in quite the right way.
With my sister any action I made resulted in criticism.
My mum echoed this behaviour though loud phone calls to her acquaintances where she would make fun of something my sisters or I had done and she didn’t think was quite right.
I remember one time being sick and mum complaining to a friend on the phone about the fact I had thrown up in the bathroom sink and that she then had to disinfect the sink and making a huge deal about how I had done the wrong thing.
I found the way my mum talked about me to be really humiliating and painful. She took simple behaviours most children do and turned them into a comedy at my expense or a huge and excessive problem for her. And as a child (and even as an adult), I interpreted her words to mean I had done something wrong.
So I decided (unconsciously) the best way to not be criticised, to not to be humiliated, to not make others angry, to stay safe, was to do nothing at all.
Procrastination was a strategy to stay safe. It was great thinking by my young brain, but incredibly ineffective.
Making this connection changed my life (at 36 years old). I stopped procrastinating with such ferocity and started to be able to take action and feel safe.
Now when I procrastinate, I know it is telling me something. Usually it is telling me I am over tired or I really do need to take a stress free break.
I still use some of my strategies for procrastination, such as dividing a big job into smaller, manageable chunks, but I am not trapped by absolute inaction the way I was.
So how does my journey with procrastination connect with forgiveness???
- Forgiving my family for reflecting my rejection of myself. Also for being part of an agreement I believe we made before this lifetime. I love you all.
- Forgiving that part of me that caused me to procrastinate. I understand now that you were small and scared and were doing your best to protect me with the limited resources you had. I send you love.
- Forgiving myself for procrastinating and missing out on opportunities I could have had. This is the hardest one to forgive. I’m still working on it. I send myself love (even if I don’t 100% believe it yet, I’m getting there).
Thank you for reading. I know this is a heavy post, but it has been cathartic for me to write.
Emma’s blog, the forgiveness collector explores different ways to forgiveness and peace.