Pressure to Be Perfect


Photo by geralt

Baylee Vogler and Aubrie Hickmon

It seems like everyone has that constant pressure to be perfect at everything. High school students feel obligated to maintain a 4.0 GPA all throughout high school, join as many varsity sports as possible, while also holding down a job. This pressure is causing unnecessary stress and anxiety in young adults making them feel like a failure if they come short of perfect.

In an article called, “Teens under pressure to be perfect now more than ever,” Rachel Simmons, a writer for the Washington Post, wrote that, “Young adults have described pressure to appear flawless in every domain, often effortlessly so — in school work, athletics, activities, and looks — since the early 2000s.” She then went on to explain how social media has increased this pressure to be perfect. Social media rarely shows someone’s worst, and tends to focus on the highlights of one’s life. Michelle Sampson, a counselor here at Bingham, said, “Because of social media it’s [the pressure to be perfect] more pronounced. We’re always trying to keep up with things we see. The majority of what we see on social media is not a realistic projection of life.” We may see a picture of someone smiling after running a marathon, but we aren’t shown the picture of them throwing up at mile 14. It’s important to not get caught up with unachievable stereotypes based off what we see on social media because this leads to unnecessary pressure to be perfect.

Perfectionism can be a motivational asset in one’s life, but it is also becoming much more destructive. Ilene Strauss Cohen is a psychotherapist and often writes for Psychology Today about making goals and living a healthy lifestyle. She said, “Perfectionism stays alive when you look for other people to give you worth, relying on their opinions to give you a sense of your value.” If we are constantly trying to push ourselves only for the acceptance of others, we will never be satisfied. When we focus more on what other people think about us rather than how we feel about ourselves, we are giving them more power than they deserve. It’s impossible to feel fulfilled when you are basing your achievements off of how others respond to them.

In the article, Cohen also provides some advice on how to let go of perfectionism. First, change your mindset. It’s hard, I know, but if you can get rid of at least some of your beliefs that you need to be perfect, then you’ll find that some of that fear will also disappear. Second, build self-reliance. If you do things for yourself instead of working to please everyone else around you, you’ll find that your expectations won’t feel so impossible to reach. Third, learn to let go. If you let go of whatever is keeping you from being happy with who you are, the belief that you need to be perfect will be easier to let go of, too. Fourth, make your own decisions. Separate what you want versus what other people think you should want. Other people aren’t going to have all of the answers to your life, so know what you want to improve your own life. Fifth, remember, you can’t hate your way into accepting yourself. Know that you are enough. Telling yourself that you’re a failure isn’t going to get you anywhere. Sixth, make peace with the “now” before you feel satisfied with the “later.” You have to be satisfied with where you are before you can appreciate where you’re going.

Sampson also provided some advice for students to let go of the need to be perfect. 1) Work on forgiving yourself and others. 2) Limit your screen time. 3) Really think about the goals you set; what are you trying to prove and who are you trying to prove it to? 4) Consider the source of your expectations. 5) Remember to have fun. Life just isn’t about work. Hopefully, these pieces of advice can help you to realize that you don’t have to be perfect and like Sampson said, “It causes a lot of undue stress. It’s not realistic and it’s not obtainable.”

Perfectionism can be good, but when you start to care more about what others expect of you rather than what you expect of yourself, that’s when it can become a destructive tool.