Student Interviews: Perfectionism

Names are changed for privacy purposes.

Heather defines perfectionism as the constant need to project on one self as perfect or closes to this as possible. “If it's not amazing, then it's not done, but it can also cause the person to inflate small, simple assignments into extraordinarily detailed tasks.” Heather states.

Heather considers herself a recovering perfectionist and she is trying to grow out of this detrimental state so it does not affect her. “There have been countless instances, mainly in high school, that I've turned in assignments late because I didn't think they were good enough at the due date. Or I worked too hard and took too much time to complete small assignments. Or I would be extremely reluctant to start a larger essay because I was horrified by how much effort, work, and time would have to go into it, and in order to start.” Heather said.  She had to begin in a specific way to make sure that the entire essay turned out right. Perfectionists see the world in a completely different perspective. They believe that if they don’t do the work perfectly that it will lead to a bad grades but what perfectionist don’t understand is there is no such thing as perfect. And with negative outcomes a positive outcome will form after. “Sometimes it gets the better for me, but I try my best to keep it under control. One thing a perfectionist will do is overthink for an assignment and make it much more complicated than it needs to be.”

Heather used to put a lot of pressure on herself to do her best in school, regardless of her capabilities . Now she is trying to reunite with the idea, “my best might not be THE best, but it's still okay.” Heather says. Her cause of stress is a combination of expectations for herself, the future, and a profuse amount of long essays that she needs to write. “Depending on the type of person you are, anything can be hard. Personally, I think there were challenging aspects to being a freshman that affects me, while they were easy to overcome for a friend. It's all based on what kind of person you are and how you deal with new and different situations.”

A lot of Heather’s stress was a growing spark from her very own mind. This affected countless exterior influence and the academics overall were not stressful for Heather, however the social pressure put her  in a bad situation depending on the what type of class Heather took In half of her classes, she had to read and  had a lot to write for the end of the semester. For Heather’s language class, it was tons of vocabulary and grammar.  For the other two classes, it's just endless worksheets and summaries while reviewing the material. “It's not too much work, as it's definitely manageable.”

“I've gotten better at identifying what I don't have to spend crazy amounts of time on, but it still involves the process of consciously analyzing the assignment. If it's an assignment that I enjoy or typically do well at but very small and unimportant, it's much harder to keep myself from perfecting it.” Heather says. When she was younger she was sometimes known as teacher's pet. Being perfectionist might make others perceive a person a certain way but it sometimes can give a positive outlook on life. To make herself relaxed and at peace with herself Heather tries to meditate or distract herself on the internet According to Heather minor stress is actually helpful. Minor stress can make one determined.

It all depends on the degree of perfectionism if it affects a person badly. In some case perfectionism can help improve study habits and grades however if the perfectionism becomes compulsive and obsessive. It can affect the person in horrible ways. "Reaching for the stars, perfectionists may end up clutching at air," psychologist from Psychology Today, David Burns says.

Perfectionism is a disorder, according to Zane Duzant a Manhattanville Freshman. “I define perfectionism as an unneeded feeling of compulsion to achieve an unachievable goal; that being perfection.” He says. Zane considers himself as a perfectionist. However he also has been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which is some cases there can be a direct correlation. Zane puts a lot of pressure on himself. Perfectionist tend to feel guilty if they don't do something to their full potential.

“Most of my stress is from the lack of time management. I'm not a party-goer or anything like that, but I do lack organization skills; I'm always late with stuff.” There is no specific way a perfectionist must be. Each individual carry’s their own stresses and problems. They also carry their own unique way of doing work and getting things done. Perfectionist can be very good students but there are some cases where they are not.

“Social structures have virtually no impact on my life.” Zane says. Some people depending on their values don’t let social issues affect them.  Sometimes students pay attention to academics more or they just learn to not care what others think. 

 “I'm getting a lot of work this semester, I'm a freshman in a few 3,000-level Philosophy courses; each of which has a 15-page essay due. I have 60 pages to write by the end of the semester, (including the FYW-essay).” He says. Zane does not feel the need to perfect anything except for his mental health.  

He does not let stress define Him. “Anyone who knows me personally, knows me as "Zane, super bad OCD and anxiety." It's like I'm married to this stuff.”According to Zane being a perfectionist is terrible. He thinks perfectionism believes in a reaching perfection, and unfortunately that is not remotely true.

Zane thinks it is part of college for students to stress. “I think it is our lack of planning, time, and other skills that creates for a stressful environment. We've all gone through most of the drama in high school, so there's not much to stress about socially. (You should be starting to figure yourself out by now). And I think the biggest stressor is people choosing to socialize, party, drink, etc. over doing their work.” Zane said.