By Laura Arango ’20
Every college student knows the struggle of multiple all-nighters in preparation for midterms week. Too often students put their own mental and physical health aside in striving for a perfection that no one can really achieve. While trying to be the best version of yourself is important, trying to be perfect is an unattainable and unhealthy goal.
A study done by Pennsylvania State University of more than 100,000 students recently revealed that anxiety is the most common mental illness on college campuses, and the number of these students with anxiety is on the rise. Clearly, the college atmosphere of perfectionism has taken its toll on the student populations.
Yes, it’s human nature to want to succeed and to be the most successful. In fact, Charles Darwin and modern scientific thought says the very survival of our species and all living things is defined by competition and success—natural selection.
However, science could not account for the endless flow of information society is exposed to everyday. Science does not account for a generation that values Instagram likes over actual conversation. Nor could science foresee a world that constantly instills the idea that perfection is needed in the minds of adolescence.
The active pursuit of perfection is physically and mentally impossible. Overachievers, perfectionists—call them what you will—may develop a problem with prioritizing. Every task will seem equally important and therefore equally daunting. They will fall into a perpetual cycle of feeling like nothing you ever do is enough. There’s always one more reading to be done, one more equation, one more lab report.
The lines between academic perfection and perfection in your relationships will blur. In the same manner you want to excel in your studies, you’ll want to excel in your relationships. The idea of having the perfect friend group becomes necessary. And while you live your life everyday attempting to be the perfect friend, girlfriend or boyfriend, one truth persists: we live in an imperfect world. There are those who see reliability as a weakness and a means for exploitation. Just as one school task becomes another school task, one favor for a friend becomes another favor and the cycle persists.
This all might seem great and functionable at the time it is occurring until you wake up from a 20 minute power nap one day with the realization that you haven’t actually slept in three days. This moment of realization shows that striving for perfection breeds failure. Failure comes from spreading yourself too thin and it hits hard. The bright side of it all is that humans have the ability to move past hardships and failures to see that hardships become fleeting thoughts of a lesson learned.
Choose to be a high-performer not a perfectionist. The difference is key. For those perfectionists out there like myself, I hope you learn to live a life that is less about pleasing everyone and more about feeling satisfied with yourself. You do not need to succumb to that silent crippling anxiety you feel everyday in the midst of what feels like endless schoolwork. Prioritize, take study breaks, call your mom. Life isn’t about straight A’s or a seemingly-perfect Instagram, rather we all need to learn to enjoy the moments in between and realize it will be okay.