Click here for updates on the evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) situation at the University of Arizona

OPINION: Perfectionism is a problem

grades
Tom Price | The Daily Wildcat

Many students strive for perfection, but that can cause a lot of stress. Photo illustration taken May 1, 2016. 

Perfect is an adjective we all want to describe ourselves with, striving to earn a 4.0, receive 100% on every exam and complete every task flawlessly. However, we are all humans and we all make mistakes.

Many individuals struggle with perfectionism but most of us don’t see it as a bad thing. Outsiders that are unaware of the fact another person is a perfectionist often just think that they have it all together, are organized, dedicated and motivated. Someone who never fails is often viewed as smart or “perfect.”

The American Psychology Association defines perfectionism as, “The tendency to demand of others or of oneself an extremely high or even flawless level of performance, in excess of what is required by the situation. It is associated with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health problems.” 

Psychology Today explained common characteristics of perfectionists. A few of the character traits include: thinking in all or nothing terms, having demanding standards for oneself and others, not trusting others to  complete tasks correctly and avoiding situations that one thinks they will not do their best at. 

MORE FROM THE DAILY WILDCAT

RELATED: OPINION: Experience doesn't pay the bills: The problems with unpaid internships

While many of us think that trying to do everything flawlessly is important and what we should aim for, it is also important to learn to accept our imperfections and failures. It’s simply not realistic or maintainable to be perfect all the time. We are humans, and it’s normal to make mistakes.

The pressure that we put on ourselves to be perfect and make no mistakes can leave us feeling stressed as we try to live up to the high and unrealistic expectations that we have created for ourselves. 

Failure is a part of life, and in fact it is an important part. However, for those who are perfectionists this is a fact that is hard to accept. Instead of understanding that failure is normal, perfectionists obsess over their little mistakes and will not feel successful unless they accomplish every goal perfectly.

From my own personal experience I am someone that knows how difficult it is to accept failure. For as long as I can remember in school I have always been that student that strives to receive a 4.0 GPA, and get an A at the top of every paper. If I got a paper or exam handed back with anything less than an A, I felt as if I had failed. To me anything below a 4.0 GPA meant that I did not try hard enough. 

RELATED: OPINION: The normalization of overscheduling is breaking us

As I have been in college I have realized that this is not always attainable, and that in school this is the time where it is ok to be making mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn and grow. 

In the long run getting a not so great grade on a project or two is a learning experience. Learning from mistakes and messing up a few times while in college isn’t a bad thing, it’s better to make those mistakes now rather than when we are out in the real world working in our career. 

The avoidance and fear of failure can cause individuals experiencing more stress as they look at life as an endless list of accomplishments that need to be completed perfectly. There are healthy ways to strive for success without putting too much pressure on ourselves.


Follow Julianna Strano on Twitter



Julianna Strano Headshot

Julianna is a senior majoring in journalism and sociology. She enjoys writing and reporting on topics related to mental and physical health and wellness.


Share this article


UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (11/24)
1,344 22 1.6%
Total (8/2)
60,367 957 1.6%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated November 24, 2021