The Complicated Relationship Between Fear and Procrastination

I watched a show not long ago in which one of the characters is a writer. The plot of this particular episode was him writing a manuscript. Despite being excited about the project, he found himself endlessly procrastinating. In the end, one of his friends informed him that the reason he was procrastinating was because of a fear of failure, a fear of not being good enough.

That really resonated with me, especially as I am currently procrastinating on my own manuscript.

How often do we avoid doing something simply out of a fear of not being good enough? Not good enough to take that new job? Not good enough to take a chance on a relationship? Not good enough to live in that town? The list can sadly go on forever. But the real questions are who are we not good enough for and who are we measuring ourselves against? Usually the answer is ourself, our preconceived notions of who we think we are supposed to be.

According to a study by researchers at York University, procrastination often stems from the fear of disapproval. The study looked at 131 college-aged individuals and found a strong link between procrastination and perfectionism. The drive to be perfect often creates anxiety, and to avoid this feeling people can put off doing things, which in turn makes them feel more anxious; it’s a vicious circle. This is what leads to procrastination. People put off doing the projects and tasks they want to excel at because they are afraid they will fail or they are afraid of what others will think if it’s not perfect.

-Jia Wertz,Thrive Global

I wish I would have understood this about myself back when I was trying desperately to write final term papers. No matter how early in the semester I was given the assignment, it never failed to boil down to a mad dash writing session a few days before the due date. Though the adrenaline and need to finish fueled the efforts, the stress of the situation was sometimes overpowering, often leaving me in tears and exhausted.

Even now I will avoid projects that I very much want to do – such as this blog, or working on my manuscript. But thanks to Season 7, Episode 3 of New Girl I finally understand why I procrastinate. I am afraid. Afraid of failure, of not being “good enough.”

The times I have met with “success” I stepped outside of my head due to stubborn determination or lack of choice. To move forward I had to look past myself – my thoughts and fears – and focus on the end result. It doesn’t mean I will be the best, get the job, or have a perfect life. However, I do get the satisfaction of knowing I tried instead of just dreaming.

If you have a story of overcoming your fear, share it in the comments below. Often, when we voice or insecurities they lose the power to hold us back.

Additional Reading:

Fear of Failure

Beating the Fears

Overcome Procrastination

Procrastination and Perfection


3 thoughts on “The Complicated Relationship Between Fear and Procrastination”

  1. Very insightful and I ening..I too, am a procrastinator and this helped me tl understand why i had put off getting back i to my artwork of painting.


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