We all procrastinate occasionally (well, quite often actually) – we put off writing the assignment, we avoid making that difficult phone call, we do the housework instead of paying the bills. That’s pretty normal. But some people use it as a self-sabotaging strategy. Here’s how it works. You might have to do a test in a month’s time. It’s a bit scary. You might fail. They will find out that you don’t really know your stuff. So you put off preparing for the test.
You find other more important things to do like rename all the folders on your computer, clean out your wardrobe, visit the in-laws, even a dentist’s appointment looks good. You leave your preparation to the very last minute. Then, because your anxiety is now really high you cram all night before the test.
But the procrastination has given you your alibi. If you don’t do well you can say “Well what can you expect. I only started on it last night. If I had more time I would have done better”. And if you do well then you feel good because you can say “Look at that. Even though I only had a short time I still did well.” You win either way.
If you had started preparing a month ago and worked hard and then you didn’t do well – that would be really bad. Clearly then you must be a fraud. You’ve given your best effort and it wasn’t enough. Game over. And so procrastination allows you to protect yourself from being exposed. You now have a valid excuse. An alibi.
Extract from The Imposter Syndrome.