Fear, Sugar, and Self-Sabotage: A Day in the Life of a Procrastinator

I woke up feeling psyched about putting in a full day of work on an exciting new course I’ve signed up for. It was something I have been wanting to do for a while and I felt really good about giving this to myself.  I sat down excited to put in a full day of classwork, but three hours later, I found myself eating cake and watching Netflix. Let me break it down for you. 

So, how did I end up on the couch, indulging in cake and Netflix just three hours later? Well, it didn’t happen by chance; I meticulously set up the self-sabotage and executed it perfectly.

During the first two hours of my course, I kept telling myself things like, “I can’t think clearly,” “I’m not sharp enough,” “I don’t know enough,” and “I’m not prepared for this.” But, of course, I don’t have 20 years of experience like the course designer – that’s why I’m taking the course in the first place! I knew this intellectually, but the negative narrative in the background kept telling me I wasn’t smart enough. After two hours of battling these thoughts, I decided to take a break and go for a walk to clear my head, thinking I’d return to my coursework afterward.

Did I accidentally walk past my favorite bakery? There was nothing accidental about it. I deliberately set out to get some cake, though I didn’t admit it or possibly didn’t realize it at the time. The idea did cross my mind before I left the house. An hour later, I returned with not just one, but two delicious pieces of cake. Minutes later, I was comfortably sitting on the couch, watching Netflix, and enjoying my cake – it was lunchtime, after all. I thought I’d do this and then get back to work, believing that this time would be different. I thought I could eat the cake and then continue working on my course.

But here’s the thing – when I eat a lot of sugar, it sucks away my will to live. It might sound dramatic, but that’s how it feels. All the things that would bring me a sense of fulfillment – like doing classwork, working out, or improving myself – suddenly lose their appeal. Instead, I find myself wanting more sugar and more Netflix.

Similar to alcohol, sugar fires up all the dopamine, followed by the inevitable carb coma brought on by dynorphin. I end up stuck in this state for hours, craving more sugar and battling my willpower not to give in. I might even take a nap to give my willpower a break. But when I’m in this sugar-induced fog, I can’t think straight, I lose my sharpness, and I can’t focus.  I’ve brought the reality I earlier feared into existence. The entire process is defeating, exhausting, and frustrating – a dance I’ve done many times before with alcohol.

Finally, bedtime rolls around, and I’m left with the thought that I’ve wasted another day. I wake up the next day ready to write this, not only as a form of self-therapy but also to let you know that you’re not the only one struggling with this.

So, what could I have done differently? If I had managed those self-defeating thoughts as soon as they started, I might have been able to turn this dumpster fire of a day around and accomplish my one goal – to do the damn coursework. If I had taken those initial thoughts and looked at them for what they really were – fear – I could have restructured them to empower myself rather than sabotage myself.

Learning a new skill, stretching myself – they naturally trigger fear. It’s our brain’s way of protecting us, even though it didn’t realize that learning something new wasn’t a threat to my life. We can’t fight our fear, but we can acknowledge it and take it along for the ride. What if I had said something like this, “I see you, and I know you’re scared. You’re just trying to protect me, but it’s okay; I’ll be okay. Have a seat here beside me, and I’ll show you.”

The old me might have given up, resigned from the idea of acquiring this new skill and possibly even asked for a refund on this very expensive course(who am I kidding, I would have let it go with the notion that I’d finish it someday while knowing I never would).  I would have betrayed my passions and dreams.  

But the woman I am today wouldn’t do that, oh hell no, I want this and I’m going for it.  So the day after, I wake up, and immediately the ‘feeling sorry’ for myself starts to flood in and today is quickly lining up to be a repeat of yesterday.  I go straight to my journal before I’ve even wiped the sleep from my eyes and write it all out.  Get it out of my head, today is a new day and I don’t need to carry this shit into it.  Now that I’ve gotten all the crap out of my head I’m feeling empowered, I can do this, I’ve set myself up for success.  I finish the day with a good chunk of my course complete and yes, the thoughts came up, and I asked them to snuggle in next to me and watch, I’d be ok.😉