You arrive at the airport.
Your ticket says you will take off at 3:30pm.
At the gate, you hear the announcement, “The pilot does not feel it is the absolute perfect time to fly. Since he is still waiting for the best conditions ever known to man and the perfect frame of mind, we are forced to cancel the flight.”
Now, would it not have been better for the flight to have taken off nearly perfectly rather than not at all?
Well, students find themselves in the pilot’s seat of their own life, struggling with perfection.
Here I want to discuss perfectionism and how to work past unhealthy perfectionism.
The thirst for perfection comes from a number of different causes: fear, desire for good grades, obsessiveness, and a high standard of knowledge.
There is both a good and bad side to it.
On the one hand, perfectionism gives you an incentive to aim higher and work harder.
Obsessively comparing yourself to others is unhealthy, but you can always compete with who you were yesterday.
Striving to get the mark closer to perfect can awaken strengths and problem solving abilities you didn’t know you had!
Furthermore, while striving to get closer to perfect, you maintain high academic standards and perform well.
“Aim for the stars and, even if you fail, you will land on the moon” rings true at this moment.
The act of earnest striving for perfectionism, can lead to achieving sufficiently high marks before the illusive 100% comes.
On the other hand, perfectionism can be taken too far.
I have seen many of my friends and classmates lose their health and joy through uncompromising ambition towards 100%.
It is always important to keep things in perspective and see how one grade does not impact you 5 or 10 years down the line.
Unwavering ambition can lead to burnout and regret.
Jade, a recent high school graduate in England, made a controversial video about regretting her perfect exam scores. This regret does not come from ingratitude but from an awareness of the price paid for those grades.
What do you gain, if you get perfect grades, but lose your health and passion?
You can watch the whole video here:
That said, I read an interesting article recently, which discussed the perfectionism of gifted students.
If school takes no effort whatsoever for some students, then what would perfectionism for them look like?If school takes no effort whatsoever for some students, then what would perfectionism for them look like? Click To Tweet
The writer, Paula Prober, showcases the internal struggle of a student to know “everything,” since it takes no effort to know just something.
Read the article here.
In my experience, the number one place unhealthy perfectionism rears its ugly head is in “procrastination perfectionism.”
I myself have a life sentence, unfortunately. Linda Sapadin of Reed University defines this as: “You’re overly concerned with not meeting high expectations; you work so hard you never finish (or, sometimes, never start)” (read the full article here).
While at university, I was in the Honors College. Despite being surrounded by the “best and brightest,” we all waited to start our major projects.
In my case, I needed to see how each step would go.
I wanted to mentally foresee finding the resources, having the main points of the outline, and then writing the final draft, before I began anything.
This goes back to fear or feeling unprepared.
Though for some, like our pilot in the introduction, we may hunger for that perfect state of mind without fatigue or worry. Regardless, the allure of perfectionism can stop us from even starting.
Ways to Combat It
There are many ways to work through the negative effects of perfectionism. Here I will list four:
1.Make sure you schedule your project well.
Do not write down: “write essay,” but instead breakdown the project into manageable pieces.
You can focus your perfectionism on each step, rather than being overwhelmed by the whole.
I discuss this further in 3 Do’s and Don’ts, which you can read here.
2. Zoom out in time.
Will this essay matter in three months?
Will this test haunt me in five years? Most likely it will not even be on your mind in five days; therefore, relax.
3. Focus on what you are writing and building.
Forget about the grades for a second.
If you make something wonderful, then the grade you deserve will follow.If you make something wonderful, then the grade you deserve will follow. Click To Tweet
Aim your perfectionism into the content and not the numerical mark at the end.
4. Consider stoicism.
What grades you will get and whether it will be raining tomorrow are entirely out of your control.
Your actions and mindset are in your control.
Criticism and imperfect grades do not define you, but your attitude and performance are in your control.
Letting things go and focusing on knowledge rather than grades will endlessly help you.
Ali Abdaal, a medical school graduate, discusses his stoic outlook and how beneficial it is during school and life.
You can watch the video here (just watch from 02:55 – 11:15)
Perfect yourself but don’t be perfect.
Like a pearl, you can continue to improve and become more radiant, but don’t strive to be perfect.Perfect yourself but don’t be perfect. Like a pearl, you can continue to improve and become more radiant, but don’t strive to be perfect. Click To Tweet