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Mental Health

Why We Need to Throw Out the Word “Perfect” from our Vocabulary


If you google the definition of perfect, here’s what comes up: adjective. having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.

With the start of a new year, there is always this pressure to be “perfect,” or to do things quite different than the year before, most often in a positive way. As we’ve seen from the first weeks of this year, things are far from perfect. The effects of COVID-19 are truly devastating and immeasurable, sparing nothing. Across the world and especially in the United States, people are hoping for a new start. 

I’m hoping for a new start. 2020 was a devastating year for me personally — I lost touch with people who I had thought cared about me, my mental health tanked (as it did for many people across the world), I had to work so much harder in school and with extracurriculars as things transitioned online, and I lost a loved one to COVID-19. 

Now, that’s not to say that 2020 was a completely horrible year. I learned so much about myself and about the way I see the world. I wrote this article about productivity in the midst of it all and circling back to the topic at hand, I don’t feel that sense of needing to be productive. I feel a sense of wanting to be perfect. 

Perfection is subjective. What’s considered “perfect” for one may be considered very less than ideal for another. I measure perfection for me as meeting all of my goals and expectations but also meeting the goals and expectations of my loved ones. I feel this enormous pressure to be perfect for the people around me. 2020 made me realize that I do not need and should not seek validation from others. Other people don’t always care about you, and they don’t always have your best intentions at heart. So why do I feel this enormous amount of pressure for people who love me, who I know have my best intentions at heart? 

The answer? It’s myself. 

I don’t have pressure from other people. I don’t have to be perfect for them, I have to be perfect for me. I hold myself to an incredibly high standard, and I often think about that last sentence, that I have to be perfect for me. That sparks a whole list of questions. Why do I think I need to be perfect? How am I actually defining perfection? Am I comparing myself to other people too much and is that what I consider perfect? Am I worried that someone is going to tell me that I’m someone I’m not or that I could be someone much better than I currently am today? 

It’s frustrating to be in a headspace where you’re constantly questioning yourself every day. In a world with so much uncertainty, excess frustration and doubt is the last thing anyone wants to experience on an emotional level. Back to the pressure of being perfect, I am realizing more and more that I am not perfect. No matter what anyone says or no matter how I’m feeling, whether positively or negatively, I will never be perfect. My definition of perfection changes every day. 

Did I say something I didn’t mean to someone or did I let someone down? That means I wasn’t perfect. Did I not perform as well on a task as I had hoped? Also not perfect. Am I not doing enough to save the world with the state that it is in? Is there anything I really could do to make a difference? Another great reminder of why I’m not perfect. 

Even by putting things in a positive light, I still have these thoughts. In 2020, I achieved all the academic goals that I intended to achieve, and I got into medical school, which is a big deal. There were things I could have done better - therefore I am not perfect. I also made a small difference in my community through volunteer work. I didn’t do enough - I’m still not perfect. I could sit here and list all of the things I did or did not accomplish last year, but the bottom line is the same. I will never see anything as perfect even if I say so. The word perfect should really be thrown out from our vocabulary. The desire to achieve perfection is unattainable in and of itself. I shouldn’t be perfect for other people, I shouldn’t be perfect for me, I shouldn’t be perfect at all— because I’m never going to be, and I shouldn’t try to be. 

The pressure that exists to be “perfect” has manifested differently for everyone. Instead of trying to be “perfect,” let’s focus on trying to be ourselves. Maybe you want to be a better version of yourself, but you’re allowed to be more lenient with your goals. Just don’t sacrifice who you are in the process.

Let’s leave the term “perfect” in 2020. Let’s focus on being authentic instead.

Ananya is the President of Her Campus at Michigan State. She is majoring in Human Biology and minoring in Health Promotion, and post-graduation, she will be attending medical school! If she's not studying, you can find her watching TikToks or Grey's Anatomy!
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