The Pressure to be Perfect


   The need to be perfect is a sensation that is commonly felt throughout many individuals; whether it be with sports, academics, or just striving to be perfect in general. I will agree that it feels great to be the best, but trying to be perfect is not a realistic goal. The pressure of being perfect is a huge problem, especially amongst teenagers and young adults. 

   Perfectionism is a topic that is not talked about often, so I am going to break it down a little. There are three different types of perfectionism: self-oriented, socially-oriented, or other-oriented. The most common type of perfectionism is socially-oriented. Recent studies done by the American Psychological Association have shown that socially-oriented perfectionism has increased by 33%. There are many different stressors that can cause socially-oriented perfectionism: friends, work, relationships, society, your culture, but the biggest culprits for this type of perfectionism are parents.

   A survey conducted over a 30 year span included 7,060 participants, and every single participant showed some measure of perfectionism that was due to the expectations their parents had for them. Parents can set some pretty high expectations for their kids, and trying to live up to those expectations is not always sensible. Parent driven perfectionism has really shown itself in recent years. Per the APA, the amount of high schoolers that expect to graduate has risen from 50% to 80% in the past couple of decades. This increase is due to the fact that more teenagers today think their parents will find them inferior if they are not able to graduate. Although the expectations to graduate has increased, the actual graduation rates do not support that. This shows that the expectations to succeed have grown, but the actual rates of succeeding have remained the same. These high expectations that are not met contribute to the overall increase in perfectionism.

   Perfectionism can also have some serious consequences. It may seem obvious that constantly trying to be perfect can lead to immense stress, anxiety, and depression. However, there are so many other health problems that could arise from being a perfectionist. Studies have found that perfectionism is typically accompanied by OCD, anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, PTSD, fatigue, chronic headaches, insomnia, dyspepsia, and in the worst cases, suicide. Medical News Today has found that about 70% of teens and young adults who committed suicide were viewed as a perfectionist. Perfectionism can also affect those around you. Typically those who suffer from perfectionism feel they will never be enough. It’s hard enough to feel that way about yourself, but bringing that emotion into relationships can cause things to spiral out of control. This makes it incredibly hard for those who need to be perfect to maintain relationships. Nobody deserves to feel this way and nobody deserves to struggle with relationships just because they feel they are not perfect enough.

   It’s unrealistic to think that there will ever be a time where the pressure to be perfect does not exist, however, the rates of perfectionism do not need to keep increasing. With a decreased amount of perfectionism comes a decreased amount of anxiety, depression, and suicide. Fixing perfectionism does not mean all teenage mental health issues will go away, however this is a good place to begin. Unfortunately there is no real solution or medication that will help with perfectionism, but acknowledging that it’s okay to not be perfect is where to start. It’s okay to not be the best, and it’s okay to struggle. Everyone experiences setbacks and these minor challenges will not make you any less amazing than you were before.