Perfectionism as a First-Year Student

Reflecting on my first year at Ohio State, I have very little negative things to say about my experience. As a theatre major I added three credits to my resume, and I made it into my second major, journalism. I even finished the year with a 4.0 GPA. I was selected to be in a black male leadership round-table, and I became an FYE Peer Leader. While all of these things appear to be wonderful accomplishments, which they are, they came at a price. These accomplishments were in part fueled by my perfectionism, and eventual fed my perfectionism.

Many people when deeming themselves perfectionist the term usually has more of a positive connotation. Perfectionism often breeds hard workers, good work, and often to an extent, good leaders. However, perfectionism can be dangerous to one’s wellbeing. I know personally, I was willing to sacrifice my mental, emotional, and especially my physical health to accomplish my goals. If a job needed to be done it would get done, regardless of what I ate or how much sleep I got. My first semester, I did not care to reach out and meet new friends or even develop close relationships with my roommates. I wanted to be excellent in my work, that is what was important.

Indeed, one does come to college to get an education first, but that is not all that matters. I truly believe people cannot be their best selves without considering their overall well being. Eventually this would take a toll on how I felt, and by the time a break approached it would often become very difficult to follow through with my work. However, maintaining greater attention toward my health, rather than my desire for excellence, could have made my first year a much more enjoyable experience. I found this out my second-year. When I began to loosen my obsession on perfection and payed closer attention to my health, I saw things change. I don’t just operate throughout my life. I enjoy my life.

I write this to make people aware of the students who work really hard and seem fine but may be on an unhealthy path. If you are reading this or know someone like this, I hope you have the courage to do one of the following actions: reflect on your practices and make changes where you see fit or talk with your friend or student just to make sure they are maintaining a healthy well being. Wellness is just as important, if not more important than excellence.