Breaking out of the 'Shame – Procrastination' Cycle

by | 15 Jun 2015 | Coaching

After deciding to try something new to overcome my procrastination tendencies last week, this week has been a revealing and uncomfortable experiment!

Yes, been able to tap into my compassion and desire to help ‘Future Rachel’ as I’d hoped, rather than assume that she will have more resources and motivation to deal with tasks than the present version of me has available right now. However, what’s been revealed as I’ve stripped away the ‘I can do it later” comfort blanket is, once again, that sneaky old adversary Shame –  and further confirmation that my subconscious is not rational!

So, what I found as I observed and simply noticed my behaviour (working hard not to harshly judge or criticise myself and therefore set up further resistance) was this:

I would set myself a ‘good girl’ intention of completing a task that needed to be done, for example I realised in advance I couldn’t make an important meeting which would mean a number of practical consequences and implications for others, and so I told myself I needed to send an email to various people to let them know and suggest alternatives.

I felt I wasn’t quite clear what those alternatives were, so I ‘put off’ sending the email while I ‘thought about it’.

Except, as I observed myself. I realised this wasn’t quite true.

What was really true, was that I felt ashamed for having messed up on dates for something so important so I avoided the pain of having to admit my mistake by deferring sitting down to send the email. Which makes no rational sense, because all I do then is compound the initial mistake by then making it last minute by the time I let people know I can’t make the meeting!

The shame of my avoidance is added to the initial shame and so my subconscious avoids more and more, until finally it has absolutely no choice but to face into the task. Which feels by now like some big horrible monster…until I actually do it, then realise it’s no big deal and wonder why I put it off for so long!

So it’s not the task, it’s not the lack of clarity, it’s not being ‘too busy’ with other stuff – it’s simply that at some level I felt shame and therefore I avoided it as much as possible.

So I’m learning to look closely, rather than look away, whenever I have a sense of shame. Because when I look at it head on, rather than out of the corner of my eye, I realise how small and pathetic my shame is, rather than the great big ugly hairy monster I have in my imagination.

And then things can get done – no big deal.

This is breaking the habit of a lifetime for me though, so it’s going to take time – and self-compassion (lots of it!).


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