Freshman Findings: There should be no pressure to be perfect

There is a lot of pressure to do a task perfectly in college, whether it’s writing a final paper or meeting a group of people in a social setting. There are many outside factors that contribute to this, such as striving for success or simply making your parents proud. There is nothing wrong with working to the best of your ability, but when taken to the extreme, this lifestyle can really take a toll.

That perfectionist mindset does a lot of harm to a student’s mental health. A Huffington Post article titled “The Dangers of Perfectionism: More Than Dotting Your I’s and Crossing Your T’s,” described one woman’s experience with the effects of perfectionism. She experienced an immense amount of stress while in business school at The College of William and Mary. It would get so severe that she would go 24 hours without eating or taking breaks from homework and group projects. She said that there have been times when she had not trusted the work of her group members, so she would redo the projects herself. She even quit her dance team because she felt like she couldn’t be “a perfect student and a perfect team member at the same time.” Her candor shows how harmful perfectionism can be, especially in college.

As you can see, being this detail-oriented affects mental health and is linked to issues such as depression and anxiety. A dissertation written by Daniel Per Villers, of The Anxiety Institute, explains it simply. He says social anxiety and perfectionism have a connection to one another in regard to social gatherings in college. Villers stated, “Socially anxious individuals have been found to have high expectations in regard to their social performance and become overly self-critical when they fail to reach those expectations.” This could also be categorized with the need for perfection. It does not help in highly populated events such as parties or even small dinners. The obligation to always have something to say or, more importantly, the right thing to say at any given moment, gives proof in how harmful that extreme mindset is.

The high standard of perfection can actually have the opposite effect in health than expected. A perfectionist is stereotypically super hyper and continuously on the go — always doing something. In reality, this type of person can be the exact opposite and can be seen as a procrastinator. In a New York Times article “More College Students Seem to Be Majoring in Perfectionism,” artist Katherine Dieckmann explained when describing her daughter’s work ethic, “If she can’t finish it perfectly, she’d rather not do it,” and that “she’s the same way about her hobbies, like photography.” What may be seen as lazy behavior is actually the result of unrealistic expectations and the inability to reach them.

College is a unique environment, much different from other schooling. Students are constantly around their peers. With that comes the pressure to be perfect or seemingly so. As a former perfectionist, I know it is important to step back and understand that this goal is illogical. Reflect on how healthy you are right now, mentally, physically and emotionally. Remember this, something I always tell myself and others. Don’t overthink it.

— Tatyanna Carman

Freshman journalism major

Printed in the 2/28/18 issue.

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