Marissa Fretes: By procrastinating, we cover up fear of failure

Marissa Fretes, a junior majoring in English, is a Hatchet columnist.

Just about everyone procrastinates, especially during midterm season. Isn’t that why you’re reading this right now?

As a procrastinator myself, I have always assumed that procrastination is borne out of laziness. I would just rather be stalking people I vaguely remember from high school than writing a paper. One is fun, the other is not – simple as that.

But it’s a little more complicated than that. In an essay this month, Megan McArdle of The Atlantic had another explanation for procrastination: a fear of failure, and of not being the best.

She’s talking about writers, positing that because most writers are used to getting by in school due to natural talents, competing with other naturally talented writers in the “real world” breeds a fear of inadequacy.

“If you’ve spent most of your life…doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are,” she writes.

In reading her article, with all of the heart palpitations that come along with acknowledging that something is just too real, I realized that this doesn’t just apply to writers. It applies to GW students, too.

We’re known for being ambitious. From our high-profile internships to leading our student organizations to our full course loads, it’s safe to say we do a lot. If you ask people on campus how they’re doing, they’ll often just say: “Busy.” It makes sense, then, to sometimes attribute our success to how smart we are.

But when we procrastinate on schoolwork, we’re trying to avoid the scary but true realization that we don’t really deserve our success.

Like McArdle writes, procrastination gives us two great options: If you procrastinate and still turn in something good, hooray! Your intelligence is affirmed. If you procrastinate and don’t do well on that test, for example, then you can attribute it to not doing enough, and not your inherent abilities. In that case, your intelligence is still affirmed. Hooray again!

Of course, I’m not telling everyone to look at this theory and realize that they need to stop procrastinating. That would be impossible, and not very good advice.

But at the very least, we should take a look at why we procrastinate. And what it boils down to is that we shouldn’t be afraid of learning or afraid of failing, even when we turn in something that we think is mediocre.

That paper you turn in tomorrow might not be hailed as the next big thing in academia. It might just be downright bad. But you won’t know until you do it.

If it turns out to be horrifically bad, then at least you’ll be able to use that as a learning experience, and use it to become a better writer. Procrastination might be easy, but it doesn’t solve any of those problems.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.