Perfection is a Disease of a Nation

Here are some things I know about myself: I like to read and dance; I love any baked good (especially chocolates;) I can solve any problem I face, and I am blessed and highly favored. Here’s something else I know—I try way too hard to be perfect. I think everyone wants to be perfect. Who doesn’t want to have their cake and eat it too? I’d imagine the rise of the social media age has only made these longings worse for the next generation of young women. 

“Pretty Hurts” is one of my favorite Beyonce songs. It’s all about women never achieving true self-love because we face too many pressures about the “right way” to be a woman. The chorus easily has the best bars in the piece: 

Pretty hurts
We shine the light on whatever's worst
Perfection is a disease of a nation, 
Pretty hurts, pretty hurts 

Now we all know Beyonce has never missed—but here, she was right on target. Perfection is a disease of a nation, and we never appreciate the wonders and talents that make us us. 

I can pinpoint where my desire to be flawless came from. I grew up as a serious ballerina, with the aim of being the first Black Prima Ballerina in the world. Everyone who dances ballet knows that the art form is an all-consuming love: it demands your heart, focus, body and life. Regardless of how much love you give the art form, it will never love you back.

Often, what I cite as the beauty of ballet is the pursuit of perfection. You are constantly chasing a dream, physique and standards that are simply not achievable. It’s all about pursuing a seemingly effortless beauty whilst knowing you will never achieve it. It’s what makes the art form fun. Between perfection, eurocentric beauty standards and flat-out racism within the classical arts, it’s no surprise my feelings of inadequacy would originate from here.  Unsplash/ Ahmad Odeh

This constant desire to be perfect has always felt overwhelming, but also feels like every woman's story ever—I have it better than my grammy ever did, and shouldn’t that be enough to be satisfied?

Yet, the insatiable beast that is perfection rejects such a perspective. College is one of the most confusing periods of your life. We all worry about our grades, career goals and life expectations. We all worry about the women we are becoming, but it's agonizing and counterproductive to our growth if all we do is nitpick even our biggest wins. We deserve better— shoot, I deserve better. 

You know, I don’t actually have a great ending for this article. I couldn’t tell you if I tried (and clearly I’m trying.) How do you erase years of habits, demands of excellence and two decades of declining self-worth? Frankly, I haven’t decided where I go from here. Yet writing this down, putting my thoughts to paper, sure as hell must be a good step.