Written By: Denise Moyo, BA
Do you have a behavior you KNOW is problematic but you just keep doing it? Today I want to share mine. So please bear with me in this moment of vulnerability. I want to talk about how my personal experience with procrastination exposed my impostor syndrome. And, because this is my MOMENT, I will share how acknowledging dysfunctional behaviors can improve your general well-being.
First, let’s get into a few definitions. Impostor Syndrome is an experience of feeling like a fraud. You feel like you do not belong in a particular space and that you’ve gotten there through “dumb luck”. Procrastination is the action of delaying something. However, contrary to common conceptions, procrastination is not always a conscious choice. According to Joseph Ferrarii, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, procrastination is an emotional battle, not a productive one!
“Improving your time-management skills won’t help you overcome procrastination. To tell the chronic procrastinator to,” just do it” would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, “cheer up.””
– Joseph Ferrari
Developing an awareness of the root causes of my procrastination exposed my anxieties around fear of failure. For me, college was a time where I learned some important things about myself. It all started in my freshman year of undergrad. I took a prerequisite course, “Psychology as a Natural Science”…. and failed it! It was my first time failing a course, and while it wasn’t the end of the world, it felt like it! To make things worse, I couldn’t help but notice that other students that looked like me weren’t talking about failing…. was I the only one failing this course?
Because I only knew the narrative of, “Black success, excellence, and perseverance,” it felt foreign not hearing a sea of Black women looking at my accomplishments and screaming the words “YAASSS SIS” in unison. Being raised around excellence is a lot of pressure, and for me, procrastination became a dysfunctional behavior used to cope with the pressure of possibly not achieving excellence.
Nonetheless, I tried again. It was in my second semester retaking the course and since I saw how detrimental procrastination was to me during my first semester, I doubled down and did more of it. I know, it’s sad… but true. Instead of reaching out for help, I avoided going to the professor’s open office hours and chose to live in a state of perpetual panic. My anxiety convinced me to find comfort in studying alone. I avoided the lecture hall, the professor, the teacher’s assistant, and all the things that would have made my life easier. I felt defeated before stepping in the classroom, and because I was in denial about my struggle and afraid to fail… I practically set myself up for failure AGAIN.
Knowing that I needed some help, I finally went to one of the therapists on campus. Luckily, this provided a huge relief and I wish I had gone to a professional sooner. Honestly, I thought I KNEW myself, but I didn understand that my anxiety and procrastination was the way I unforgivingly punished myself for failing. Therapy taught me how I judged and labeled myself as a fraud because I couldn’t pass an entry level course! I was just incredibly disappointed with myself, berated my learning abilities, and continuously set myself up for failure with impossible tasks.
I could not have known, alone, that these were the signs of impostor syndrome. I had no idea that procrastination was just a symptom of other deeper issues. I even learned ways my body communicates a problem to me! It was empowering to learn about these signs and understand myself on a deeper level. I’m grateful for my therapist and I’m happy to report I eventually passed the class! Let us all say, “YAASSS SIS” in unison. 🙂
For some people, our personal dysfunctions are setbacks and minor glitches. For others, these dysfunctions can be crippling and cyclical. For me, it was crippling. Here are a few questions that I asked myself (and answered yes to) before deciding to seek help.
- Do you agonize over even the smallest mistakes or flaws in your work?
- Do you attribute your success to luck or outside factors?
- Are you very sensitive to even constructive criticism?
- Do you feel like you will inevitably be found out as a phony?
- Do you downplay your expertise, even in areas where you are genuinely more skilled than others?
It can be difficult to objectively monitor your health, which is why I strongly encourage you to stay in touch with or connect with your therapist regularly! Seeing someone can help you stay in a space of thriving, helping you do the work to understand and unlearn unhealthy behaviors and responses. So if you’ve been procrastinating, ask yourself the same questions I did, and if you answer, “yes” and think you need some help finding and facing your truth, schedule your next general wellness check-in with your therapist if you have not done so already!
Click Here to Learn Strategies to Reverse Imposter Syndrome