An escape from perfectionism

Allison Rafert, Opinion Editor

For the first couple years of high school, it wasn’t unusual to find me awake late at night, spending hours rereading passages from a novel in preparation for an upcoming book quiz, rehearsing a musical excerpt until every note in a run falls into place, or ensuring each calculus problem is completed to my full potential.
Then, senior year arrived. And I was suddenly pushed from being a perfectionist into an entirely different realm. Now, I’m late wherever I go, either doing my homework in a frantic rush before class starts or not at all.
Being a perfectionist was something I never liked about myself, so I was pleased to leave that part of me behind. But, I have come to realize that having a careless attitude does not provide the peace of mind I expected. While my schoolwork may be less of a time commitment, I am not proud of what I accomplish. And rushing through assignments ensures that I do not learn or get anything worthwhile out of the work.
Meanwhile, the opposite of carelessness—perfectionism—allows for me to feel pride by putting in my best work—but only when I can meet my own high standards. And I had learned from years of practice as a perfectionist that this mindset has its own setbacks. Perfectionism requires a generous amount of time to be spent on assignments, and when that time is not available, it is easy to feel disappointed. Without my full effort, I can feel like I have failed myself and should have worked harder.
But in this fluctuating between carelessness and perfection, I have discovered that it is not a question of choosing one or the other. The way to succeed is to find a balance between the two in order to feel confident and proud of the quality of one’s work while not letting it take over one’s life. For instance, balance can be created by writing an English paper for a few hours each day instead of spending hours distressing over it or waiting until the last minute altogether. Then, work can still be completed that one is proud of without overwhelming oneself.
It’s okay to care about learning. It’s okay to want to produce quality work. And every once in a while, it’s okay to let expectations slide and aim for less than perfection.