Letting go of the idea of perfection


Paige Atkison

Paige Atkison, Reporter

My name is Paige and I am a perfectionist. I spend hours each day thinking about how I can be more efficient with my time, how I can do more with my academic career, and how I have fallen short of each of my self-imposed goals. Each day I strive to reach perfection and each day I spend an unsavory amount of time in self-flagellation for my “failures.” But the truth is, the ideals I am trying to reach do not exist. There is no such thing as perfection.

Each person has their own version of what perfection is and those standards of perfection can vary within each person. My own standard of perfection changes frequently, and yet I still continue to strive for perfection as if it is an objective standard. One semester my goal may be to achieve straight A’s, but once I’ve reached that goal I am no longer satisfied. So my standard of perfection will change from earning straight A’s to ensuring each grade is above 100 percent.

In my own life, I am able to reach my standard of “perfection,” but only for a time. One semester I may manage to achieve above 100 percent in each class, but the next semester I will be so exhausted from over exerting myself that my grades begin to suffer. Maybe you’ve experienced this too, whether it be taking on too many responsibilities because you’ve convinced yourself you have to or procrastinating on an important assignment out of fear that you won’t be able to complete it perfectly. We all may be able to continue in these unhealthy behaviors, but not for long. Eventually, we will fall short of our standard of perfection and begin to feel inadequate. This cycle continues until we reach the inevitable end: burnout.

The end result of chasing perfection as if one’s life depends on it is not indeed perfection. The end result is self-hatred and failure. Spending each day ruminating on how you’ve fallen short of perfection is not only unhealthy but counterproductive. Eventually you will convince yourself that you really have failed and that you ought to stop trying. From grade school to college, I’ve fallen into this trap numerous times. Which is why my goal this semester is to let go of perfection.

Letting go of perfection may mean different things to different people, but for me it means trying my best without obsessing over the outcome. If you’re anything like me, this is a tough task to undertake. What if I try my hardest to study for a test and I only receive a B? What if my best isn’t good enough? What if I cannot achieve my goals that way? Frankly, I believe that trying your best without preoccupying yourself with the results is the only way to achieve your goals.

When I look back on my life and tally how much time I have spent hating myself for not reaching perfection, I am overwhelmed by how many days I’ve wasted. The time I spent deriding myself for “failing” never once lead me to achieve perfection. It never even led me to achieve mediocrity. The time I spent wishing I was perfect only kept me stagnant and too afraid to work towards anything. Perfectionism is paralyzing.

I’m fed up with being paralyzed by the fear of failure. Maybe you are too. Your path to abandoning perfectionism may not match mine- and it doesn’t have to. But my path is simple, I’m going to let go.