No One Knew My Pain
I was late- a lot. I was late meeting friends, going to family functions and even to doctor’s appointments. It didn’t matter how much extra time I had, how much earlier I got up or how much pre-planning I did, I was still late. I even set all of my clocks and watches ten minutes fast as a way to trick myself, but even that didn’t help. I always seemed to have one more thing to do before I left the house such as taking the dogs out one last time, answering work emails or cleaning something. Though none of those things were crucial, my mind told me they were, and I believed it.
I started working on ways to overcome being late. There was nothing more that I wanted than to be on time. No one who is repeatedly late really wants to be late. There is something else going on underneath. To repair my procrastination situation, I took on the role of someone who needed deadlines for motivation to get be on time or to finish a project. It worked a little, but it didn’t last long and it was “hit or miss” at best. Next, I told myself am an absent-minded professor (another role) and couldn’t be expected to be on time. I was eccentric and eccentrics are in their own world. I liked this role and bought into it for quite some time. Later, however, I realized this was just another trick to keep the whole late thing going.
Being late was an issue for some of my friends, too, who felt slighted, thought I was being rude to them or that I was purposely wasting their time. Obviously, that kind of thinking didn’t do much to create an enjoyable time together. In fact, one of my “friends” consistently badgered me over being late, saying I was a poor time manager, disorganized and selfish. I always felt bad about being late, but being called names made me feel even worse and drove a wedge between us. I can tell you hearing those things didn’t “cure” me of being late either. The lateness continued. And though my mother never got angry when I was late to Christmas dinner every year, I felt like a failure for always being the last one there.
Feeling like a failure was eating me alive inside, but no one knew the pain and suffering I was experiencing over this issue. I was beating myself up for it even more than they were. I felt like there was something seriously wrong with me because everyone else was on time, but me. Driving to a destination, knowing I was already late, was extremely stressful. I knew there would be snide comments or disapproving looks once I arrived. I never had a good excuse. It was a hellish way to live. But, the pattern repeated itself as if I had no control over it. I felt powerless to change it. That’s how procrastination makes us feel .¨ powerless. The truth is we’re not powerless.
Nothing Wrong with You
One day while working, I followed a link on a webpage (probably procrastinating) that had nothing to do with my original search. The link was about, of all things, procrastination. The article discussed the myths of procrastination. The first thing it said was being late doesn’t make you a poor time manager, selfish, disorganized, mean to other people or anything else. I was so relieved. I never thought of myself as a poor time manager and I wasn’t a rude, selfish person. This article made me realize I don’t have to feel bad about myself over this issue. The article gave me some space from it so it could start to unravel. It was only a beginning, but it was enough space to launch the healing process. We have to get away from what troubles us in order to see the situation clearly.
Procrastination is a tool to let us know we are feeling bad about ourselves. It’s a wake-up call to investigate why we feel this way and then to correct those feelings. The procrastination will fall away over time on its own. What needs corrected is feeling bad about yourself, feeling unworthy, unlovable, incapable or incompetent. These are the real issues.
We can try all kinds of tactics and techniques to stop procrastination. Some of them may work for a while. But we won’t be free from this once and for all if we don’t look at the deeper reasons for procrastination. Pauline Wallin, a psychologist in Camp Hill, PA, says people who are habitually late are often struggling with anxiety, distraction, ambivalence or some other internal psychological state. We need to uncover the reasons for the anxiety or ambivalence or whatever is driving the pattern of lateness. Something else is going on inside and it is expressed in our life as procrastination. Procrastination is not the problem .¨ it is a symptom.
There is only one main issue that drives procrastination, everything else is a derivative of that. It’s fear. All reasons for procrastination, including being late, missing deadlines or whatever other hardship procrastination is creating in our life, start from fear. Fear starts from not feeling good enough, which is lack. But, the fear isn’t real because the lack isn’t real. There is nothing lacking in you. There is nothing wrong with you.
So, use procrastination as a way to figure out what you are afraid of. Perhaps you are angry about something .¨ find out why. Anger comes from fear. Maybe you are resentful or sad or maybe you feel incompetent. Whatever the reason, find out what you are afraid of .¨ and then tell yourself the truth. “There is nothing wrong with me. I am not a bad person. I can let go of whatever is holding me back.” And you can!
Write down what is not being completed .¨ what are you not getting done that you want to get done? Then, decide what story it is telling you about not being good enough. Write that down. You may have to dig deep and give it time to expose itself. Allow it to come to the surface so you can see it clearly. The first issue may be a symptom of a deeper issue. Allow the process to take its course. Just do the best you can along the way. Each time something is uncovered, let it go. Cry, say how you feel, cry more .¨ do whatever feels right to you at the time to release what has been sitting within you that does not belong to you. Rest assured, nothing that holds you back belongs to you. Let it go.
Listen for these and similar statements: “I’ll never see the end of this” or “It will never go right for me.” When you hear these, stop saying them in that moment. When no longer repeat such things you stop believing in them. They were never true to begin with. Get used to saying nice, supportive things to yourself. This may feel strange in the beginning, but keep doing it. It will soon become normal and you will feel better about yourself. Finally, be kind to yourself during this time. You deserve it. Make certain to get professional help if you feel you need it. Sometimes we uncover some difficult patterns in this process of healing. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust.
You are Powerful
My editor called one day, as she does most days, to ask me how the final section of my upcoming book was going. I told her I was stuck and couldn’t get anything that made any sense to come out of me. This is something she heard me say a lot this past year. Using her keen sense of intuition, she asked me to use one word to describe how I feel when I sit down to write my Viva Glam Magazine articles. The first word that came to mind was “Excited!” Then she asked me to use one word to describe how I feel when I sit down to write the book. The first word that came to my mind was, “Afraid.”
I was shocked. I couldn’t believe what I just said. Instantly, I had tears in my eyes as some deep-rooted, hidden emotion had been raised from its slumber. Why was the book bringing up so much fear for me? I wanted more than anything to write this book. The book format is the same as the Viva Glam Magazine articles. It is my writing style and I’m comfortable with it. It just didn’t make any sense that I would feel afraid when writing the book and excited when writing for the magazine. I had to dig deeper to see what was holding me back.
That day was a wake-up call for me. I stayed open to exploring the reason behind the procrastination on the book. Over time, I realized I have a pattern of thinking that tells me I am afraid of not being perfect. If something isn’t perfect, I can’t leave it alone until it is. Easy to see how I would be late on a regular basis with that thought process going on in my head. But, perfection is an illusion. No one is perfect. Perfection is created in our mind as a spoke off the wheel of the fear of not being good enough. It’s some unattainable standard we set up in our mind. When we repeatedly don’t meet the standard, we get validation for our thoughts that tell us we are not good enough.and the wheel goes around and around.
Fear is always tied to some story our minds are telling us about ourselves that is not true. But, we can break free and stop feeling bad about ourselves. First thing to do is stop beating yourself up for being late – TODAY. Mentally beating yourself up is not helpful. It just makes you feel worse and that is exactly what you don’t need. When you stop beating yourself up you get a chance to get a little space from the old pattern. This space gives you a clearer, more truthful perspective of what is really going on in your life based on the stories your mind is telling you about you. Then you can begin to heal it.
Next, stop listening to your mind when it tells you there is one more email to read, one more bathroom to clean, one more anything to do that, if you did it, would make you late. We have a pattern to break here and it’s not going to get broken by doing the same thing we have always done. It is time to do something different. When my mind told me, “You have to go downstairs right now and vacuum the house instead of writing the book. This is a priority”, I had to get used to saying, “I hear you but I’m going to keep writing, thank you. It’s what I really want to do and the vacuuming is not a priority.”
Sometimes I still went and vacuumed. Other times I didn’t. Over time, the urge to do something different than I wanted to do began to go away. It no longer kept me from being on time to an appointment. I was rarely late. I felt so much better about myself. Once you start being on time, the freedom from the stress is enough to encourage you to keep going. I am at the point now where my mind can talk all it want or try to get my attention with a manifestation of some physical ailment or any other trick to get me to pay attention to it. I just don’t. The stories it tells are no longer compelling to me, but feeling better about myself is.
We can change anything. We are resourceful, brave and powerful. We can take small steps to break down what is keeping us from being on time or blocking us from writing. Those small steps become giant leaps. Keep moving forward with this and don’t give up. You can break free.