By Meredith Schellin
My name is Meredith and I am a recovering perfectionist.
What is a perfectionist, you might ask? Princeton University defined a perfectionist as a person who is displeased by anything that does not meet very high standards. This definition has been used to sum up the over-zealous attitude of many of America’s young adults who will not rest until they are the best, the brightest and the most talented. And this used to be me.
Some days, it still is.
“Have no fear of perfection — you’ll never reach it,” said Salvador Dali. Someone should have told me this quote a long time ago. It would have saved me the rewriting of notes over and over again to make sure they were perfect, or the anxiety I would feel when I would have to try out for solos, drama parts or job interviews fearing that someone else would be better than me or the times I would study for hours upon hours for tests even though I knew I couldn’t possibly learn any more information.
What is the problem with wanting to be the best you can be? Nothing. But society has instilled in us this obsession to achieve perfect looks, perfect grades, excel in extra-curricular activities and have a flourishing social life. We’re taught to have it all. We see it on the cover of magazines, we watch it in movies and TV shows; we’re surrounded by peers who seem to have it all together.
Those of us who have struggled with perfectionism feel this overwhelming sense of duty to achieve. When this success is lost rather than won, we feel as though we have not measured up.
Perfection becomes our self worth. When a performance, a test or friendship is less than perfect, a feeling of insecurity begins to loom. This insecurity often grows because those of us who struggle with perfectionism fear disappointing central people in our lives more than anything else.
The ironic thing is, most of the time the outlandish goals we feel have been placed on us, are self-created. We are the only people who are actually disappointed in the 95 percent on the test instead of the 100.
While perfectionism and the issues it brings is something to be mindful of, we must remember that expectations, goals and successes are not terrible things. These things are often beautiful moments in our lives, igniting growth, change and renewal. Without goals, success and dreams, where would we go? What would we do and who would we be?
So what can we do about perfectionism? Well, as a recovering perfectionist, here is what I’ve learned: being the best you can be is not a crime. But when it defines you is when you begin to go down a road we were not meant for. All of these successes are temporary. They don’t last. What you let define you does. Be careful, because I assure you there will always be someone better than you.
Life takes balance. We must remember that no one is perfect. We all have made mistakes, gotten a little less than a perfect grade on a test, perhaps not been the best friend and maybe had a spot on the second string instead of being a starter. These things are OK. They make us who we are and we must learn to accept our flaws like we accept our achievements. We must learn to put our identity not in being perfect, but rather in who we were created to be.