Monday, October 23, 2006

Perfectionism

When is your effort good enough?

As the second real blog I post, I realize that it's a bit of a somber question, but it's been on my mind a lot lately. I've always been a very busy person, successfully juggling multiple activities and academics. For the most part, I really enjoy having a lot of different things going on (blame it on my undiagnosed ADD :) ). But it seems lately that I approach tasks differently than a lot of people. I have this strong internal drive to be able to do many things very well, and don't like to be seen in any way as not good enough.

When it comes to class assignments and studying for tests, I won't stop working until I've done everything I think I should do, or I literally run out of time. With non-academic pursuits, I agree to do almost everything if I can literally fit it into my schedule (think tetris). And I tend to feel guilty about what I pass up, especially when it comes to acting against injustice. Put together, this usually means doing things for school or others at the expense of things that affect solely me (i.e. cleaning my room, getting a haircut, sleeping). It means missing out on things that I would otherwise enjoy because I don't have the time to perfect them (e.g. playing all sports other than soccer). Most importantly, it usually means I'm bound to not meet all my expectations and end up disappointing myself, let alone everyone else I've committed to doing things for.

A few years back an undergrad at Duke wrote an editorial entitle "Effortless Perfection." If you haven't seen it or want a refresh, click here. While an extreme scenario, the underlying messages are scarily familiar. At what point do you start allowing yourself to mess up, to not take on everything you can, and to not set the bar quite so high? Even if you ignore societal pressure, what about your own expectations?

Is this a gender specific stress? Which is a greater factor, society's expectations or your own? And where do you draw the line between pushing yourself to make the most of your life, and trying to be too perfect?

1 comment:

Yusef said...

Well....I'm no shrink. But I think that the need to be perfect has to do with you own self esteem issues. Sometimes I have to sit back and ask myself (well alot actually) who I'm doing things for? Why does it matter if you are perfect? The unfortunate thing is that you are trying to impress like 7 people at once. But you only have so many hours in the day. I mean, if it was JUST for you...you would get some sleep.

From my point of view, I try to check the energy in which I do things. It is always good to have people you want to empress, but 50% of the time these people have no bearing on your life at all and 25% of the time you end up being pissed off at people you love that put these expectations on you. Sometimes they don't even do THAT. You put the expectations on yourself thinking that is what they want. Then you get disappointed when you've been working so hard for nothing.

My main concern that you should know by now but what the hell, I'll say anyway....you always hurt the one's you love. Perfectionists do so by projecting it onto everyone they care about. On top of that...they feel they should be an example to back up their harsh perfectionist attitude. So they up their work ethic to prove points. They can't chenge their ideals because it means that they have to admit they AREN'T perfect and ultimately end up frustraiting everyone that they are close to. I think that every person with a perfectionist attitude can look to one of their parents to see how it feels. They funny thing is, the one that pisses you off the most is what YOU will be like.