Eva Kranjec works as an assistant for developmental and educational psychology at the Faculty of Education at the University of Maribor. Over the past years, she has researched perfectionism and academic procrastination.
Knowing the topic, my findings were rather logical and expected. My research showed that students with more highly expressed unadjusted forms of perfectionism procrastinate their academic obligations more; these are primarily students who doubt their ability to perform the task well. Most frequently, this correlation can be explained by the fear of failure and the risk of receiving disapproval and criticism from others. This results in psychological distress, feelings of anxiety and depression, which hinder the individual and lead to passive and avoidance behaviors, i.e. procrastination.
Also interesting were the results for the link between procrastination and parental expectations as a form of unadjusted perfectionism. Although the interaction effect was small, the research showed that students with a higher level of depression symptoms are more prone to procrastinating their academic work, especially when they believe their parents’ expectations to be low. We may speculate that the latter minimizes their efforts in meeting their obligations and achieving good results.
I would not unequivocally say that academic procrastination makes us ill prepared for life. Procrastination is perceived as a phenomenon or individual’s behavior of intentionally or unnecessarily delaying one’s academic/work obligations. I find it more important to understand the factors that contribute to it here. Some people even believe that they perform better under time pressure, i.e. with the deadline approaching, which may increase their efficiency.
The factors behind academic procrastination are diverse, perfectionism is only one of them. Students often procrastinate because of burnout, fear of failure, poorly developed self-regulation skills, low self-efficacy and poor academic performance.
I believe we must shake off perfection, accept the mistakes and learn from them. If we were perfect beings, that would make us a rather naive species.
Most factors are very manageable to a certain extent, and can be improved or “trained”. We can approach this in several ways: by setting priorities and realistic deadlines, by listing our tasks, setting goals, organizing time and following a daily routine. It is also very important to understand the patterns of such behavior and irrational thoughts that maintain the anxiety feelings during the process itself. The earlier we tackle these obstacles, the sooner the level of fear of failure, which is at the core of procrastination and perfectionism, will start to lower.
This is an interesting and excellent question! Let me answer with this: “I'm a perfectionist. I have high standards – when it comes to me and to others.“ are two statements most people will gladly identify with. There is a good reason for that – being a perfectionist means working hard and never stopping. These are traits that we accept, want and perhaps even demand in our society focused on achievements and success.
I believe that every one of us has good intentions and strives for everyday progress and best possible results, however not many are aware that achieving perfection is a never-ending story. It is a vicious circle of self-defeat in attempts to achieve flawlessness and meet impossible and unrealistic criteria. The dimensions of perfectionism are expressed to a smaller or greater extent as our traits, and are part of our structure.
Of course, there are occasions when I experience a complete block, thinking that my work is not good enough, perfect. That is when I frequently start to procrastinate, because I fear what others might say about my work – my mentors, colleagues, as well as my students or friends, parents. There were also instances when I set unrealistically high expectations for others or the society, because I thought that their contribution should be about the same as mine.
When this happens, I try to stop, accept the experience, and, usually with the help of others, re-evaluate the situation and possible outcomes, recognize my thoughts and current attitude, and reshape them into something more fitting and achievable.
That is a very topical question. Several studies have shown direct and indirect effects that the use of social networks has on academic procrastination, so this link should not be neglected. I would dare to claim that there is additional pressure. While social networks can be a means of relaxation, communication or further education, they are also a source of validation and social comparison. Negative effects are manifested primarily in mental health, which is especially worrying when it affects adolescents who are still developing socially, emotionally and personally, and who are still developing their critical thinking.
This can quickly lead to unrealistic expectations about things they want to have, how they should look, and what results they should achieve. The latter is frequently linked to higher levels of experienced anxiety, depression symptoms or eating disorders. The greatest challenge is to take a step back and try to understand the difference between reality and photoshopped photos and videos. Everyone has moments when they suffer or feel less than perfect. Communication in the social media is biased in its nature, because not many people like to publicize their mistakes.
I believe perfectionism is attractive because it is mystical, mysterious and incomprehensible. Something you want to achieve, but cannot, because it does not exist. As you said – I think that some cannot shake it off because achieving perfection is a form of superiority to them. Unfortunately, perfectionism most frequently entails efforts to achieve unattainable standards, setting an individual up for perceived failure. On a more positive note: it is good to strive for realistic personal standards and structure. Our society often has good intentions when setting expectations, but it may set the wrong goals.
I believe we must shake off perfection and accept the mistakes and learn from them. If we were perfect beings, that would make us a rather naive species. By making mistakes, we develop empathy and learn compassion for ourselves and others. Instead of trying to achieve own perfection, we should strive for collaboration. A team is always stronger than one person trying to be perfect.