Today we live in a society that does not take good as being good enough. You have to be perfect. However, you can’t be perfect in just one part of your life; you have to conquer many skills in order to really be perfect. Who cares if you get perfect grades but aren’t also a top athlete or a music prodigy? This may seem harsh when you first read it, but just think about your own life. I am sure that most readers will have high standards for not just one aspect of their life, but multiple. However, while we see perfection as a goal to strive towards, many doctors and psychologists see it as a disease.
Perfectionism is a growing concern in today’s society. A perfectionist is anyone who sets “excessively high unrealistic goals” and feels defeated when those goals are not met. Many perfectionists believe that whatever they do is never good enough, and that if they do not “give more than 100 percent” they have failed. Thinking of our society, it is not hard to see how this epidemic of perfectionism has flourished. High school students need great grades and impressive extra-curricular activities to get in college, college students need great grades and real-world work experience to get a job, employees need great records and performance in order to be promoted. It is a competitive world, so in order to succeed, we believe we must be perfect. (“Perfectionism”)
So, when students begin feeling overly stressed from school, it is not just the amount of homework and commitments a student has that is causing such high amounts of stress, but the desire and need to do it all perfectly. Math homework would go much more quickly if you didn’t need to get a 100%, and studying for a psychology midterm would not be as stressful if you didn’t feel the need to get an A on it. And while many students believe they must be perfect in order to succeed, studies show that chasing perfection actually causes people to achieve less than those who have realistic standards (“Perfectionism”). This occurs because of a cycle of unattainable goals and negative effects that occur when a goal is not accomplished. The cycle begins with a perfectionist setting an unattainable goal. Then, if a perfectionist does not reach this goal, they see themselves as a failure, which leads them to blaming themselves and lower self-esteem, and this can further grow into anxiety or depression. But, a perfectionist believes that if they try harder and do better the next time, they will succeed. This belief begins the cycle over again, and will certainly lead to failure and negative consequences yet again (“Perfectionism”).
Students are very vulnerable to perfectionism since this time in their life will greatly impact many aspects of their future. Although perfectionism is very hard to let go of, there are many ways to help cope with it. Because perfectionism also causes a lot of stress, students should learn tactics to deal with stress as well. Strategies to deal with both of these can be found on the Coping With Stress & Perfectionism page. Unfortunately, it seems that society will not soon give up its obsessive desire to be perfect. But, if people become aware of its damaging effects, hopefully society will give up the need to be perfect and instead teach us to strive to become the best version of ourselves we can be.