Thursday, March 4th, 2021

R Relationships by Dr. Bill Austin
You Could Do Better


One of the ways we put stress upon ourselves
is by expecting perfection from others and ourselves.

In this article, we will continue looking at what causes us stress by examining some of the stressors. When we know what causes us stress, we can find ways to deal with those stressors. Of course, they are not the same for everyone.


One of the ways we put stress upon ourselves is by expecting perfection from others and ourselves. There are those of us who make everything into a major job - even the small projects. We treat every task as if it were to be graded. We add even more stress by turning the project into a life-and-death situation. It is as though our whole world depends upon this project being done perfectly.

The kicker is, when the task is completed, we won't allow ourselves to celebrate, because instead of seeing the good job we did, we see the one little flaw that stands out like a flashing traffic light. It is never good enough. We could have done better. It doesn't seem to matter even when other people praise what we have done.


Then there are those of us who put off doing our tasks to the last moment. We are the ones standing in the long lines at the DMV because we have waited to the eleventh hour. We wait until April 15 to do our income taxes and then rush to the post office. We are always late to every appointment or gathering. In those situations, not only do we put stress upon ourselves, but we also contribute to the anxiety of those waiting for us to show up or do our jobs. We become 'carriers of stress' because we are giving everyone else heartburn.

When we procrastinate, we add more stress to our lives because we have to rush to get things done. Now we are pushing our family members out the door while impatiently yelling for them to hurry up. As an excuse for our tardiness, we say, 'I work better under pressure.' Of course, this statement is debatable. One of the problems with procrastinating is that we wind up with a lot of loose ends. Things do not get done. So when we see all these unfinished tasks, we feel overwhelmed.

Where do these needs for perfection or procrastination come from? In a study it was discovered that the perfectionist and the procrastinator come out of the same family system. The message from that family was, 'You could have done better.' If we came home with all A's on our report card and one B, the parent would focus on the B, saying, 'You could do better.' While the parent might not have said these words, he or she could have modeled them.

So the response of the perfectionist is to prove that the job can be done perfectly. The procrastinator says, 'I could have done a perfect job if I had had more time.'

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700