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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bucknell chapter.

Caffeinated, chaotic, challenging. During my time at Bucknell so far, I have heard many of my peers ascribe these first two adjectives to describe what the life of a typical college student feels like. Many, however, (myself included) don’t dare associate ourselves with this third adjective: Challenging. 

Accomplishing as much as we do in a day despite an ungodly lack of sleep supplemented by copious cups of coffee is not something to be applauded. “Doing it all” has become toxically normalized as a measure of self-worth amongst my peers at Bucknell and is becoming embedded into college campus cultures across the country. All things considered, let me tell you why I feel it shouldn’t, and (if executed right) doesn’t have to be this way. 

Though some surely interchange the notorious phrase “Work smarter, not harder” with “Taking the easy way out”, I argue this approach has the potential to curb many of the adverse effects that workaholics and burnouts stuck in the “Doing it all” epidemic are subject to. 

With this in mind, I created a three-step plan (outlined below) that challenges many of our current understandings of what it means to be a successful college student and what we must do to get there. This plan not only promises the same successful outcomes through much simpler, safer, and smarter means but stretches success beyond academic accolades and athletic records to include the success of the whole person. The priority? Maintaining the health and happiness of one’s mind, body, and soul. 

  1. Self-Awareness

The first step in approaching a problem is acknowledging it and our explicit and/or implicit role in perpetuating it. Early signs that you may be stuck in the perfectionist paradigm may include a pattern of chronic fatigue, lack of sleep, outbursts or feelings of panic when something does not go “according to plan”, and newfound experiences of excess stress, anxiety, and/or depression. 

  1. Say No to Social Pressures of Success & Seek Out Your “Safe Space(s)”

We must not only acknowledge our roles in the “Doing it all” dogma but also our culture’s collective impact. Increasing dialogue surrounding unhealthy habits is pivotal. Though getting an entire community to engage in this necessary conversation is the end goal, short-term, it is unrealistic. Seeking out a safe space to discuss what often feels like a solitary struggle with friends, or more formally with your advisor, peer mentor, an employee at the academic success center, or even a counselor from the Health Center, is a great place to start. 

  1. Create Your Personal Anti-Perfectionist Plan 

From here, whether through self-realization and research, peer advice, or professional guidance, I urge you to create a Personal Anti-Perfectionist Plan. In organizing my escape from perfectionism, I found it helpful to first jot down a general list of the things I do that are working well and those that may not be working well. I did this in my journal – creating a simple table in which I dedicated the left column to individual habits and the right column to evaluate if the habit was serving me by checking off whether it aligned with: 1) my goals to achieve success, 2) my mental health, 3) my physical health and, 4) was realistic to maintain long-term. 

This activity was eye-opening and allowed me to address my toxic practices and brainstorm more practical alternatives. The truth: this 3-step plan will not cure the “Doing It All” epidemic overnight. But, as a recovering perfectionist, I attest to its efficiency, applaud its universality, and ask that you too trust the process. 

Haley Nelson

Bucknell '27

Haley is a first-year student at Bucknell. She is currently undecided but leaning towards a History or International Relations major on a Pre-Law track. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, going on beach walks, and trying out new coffee shops!