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Perfectionist Culture

By now, I’m sure all of you have noticed the unspoken expectation to be perfect here at BC. I didn’t recognize it at first, but from day one I felt a strange push to be not just the best I could be, but—more unrealistically—I felt a push to be perfect. 

You’re expected to maintain A’s with a GPA as close to 4.0 perfect as possible (I’m still convinced it’s impossible). Be the perfect student. You’re expected to have the perfect body—to refrain from the Mac n’ Cheese line and eat your veggies and to live at the Plex. Have the perfect body. You’re expected to go out, to drink, and to have the perfect “college experience.” Have the perfect social life. You may go out three nights a week, but you’re still expected to go to Mass on Sunday night. Be the perfect Christian. You’re expected to volunteer and to go on service trips. Be the perfect volunteer. You have to have several extra-curricular activities, and you can’t just be a member—you have to be on the executive board. Be perfectly involved and be a leader. You’re expected to have the perfect summer internship, the perfect job, and the perfect résumé. Be the perfect candidate. 

The expectations are endless, and the interesting thing is that all of these expectations arise from the students themselves—not our professors, not our RAs, not even our parents.  We are all perfectionists, and with all of us stuck in the BC bubble, our neurotic tendencies are amplified. This, paired with a lack of mental health counseling on Campus, is a recipe for disaster. Last semester, one of my professors (who had taught at UMass for a number of years) remarked, “BC is the only school where students will claw each others’ eyes out to win a volunteer opportunity.” 

Perfect is not normal. Perfect is not even attainable. Your college years are about finding yourself—everyone’s heard that before—and part of finding yourself is becoming comfortable with your imperfections. Striving for perfection is useless if you lose yourself in the process, or if you begin doing things not to better yourself, but instead to keep up with the (seemingly) perfect people around you. I love the Mac n’ Cheese at Lower, most of the time I’d rather watch Parks & Recreation instead of going to a party, and I don’t have the money to spend the summer in NYC for an internship. That’s okay. Everyone has imperfections, and, as a campus, we need to learn to accept and to welcome those quirks and qualities that make each of us unique. 

There are far too many men and women on campus who are insecure because of the incredible pressure to be perfect, and it’s going to take a lot of work to change that. Next time you find yourself or a friend stressing out about an A-, missing a day at the Plex, or not scoring that perfect job—rethink the standards to which you’re holding yourself. 

The great Hannah Montana once said, “Nobody’s perfect.” She was right, obviously. We’re in college (a really, really good one, too!) and we’re not meant to be perfect. So, take a breath, eat a piece of chocolate, and let’s work together to appreciate the imperfections surrounding us. 


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