Tips For Perfectionists In College
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Student Life

What Perfectionists Need To Remember

The college environment proves to be conducive to my perfectionist tendencies— but there is a way around it.

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What Perfectionists Need To Remember
Emilie Joe

Course papers, tests, and problem sets sometimes feel like a physical weight which we carry on our shoulders. Not to mention the stress of extracurriculars, having a job, or much more.

Plus, a social life? Never heard of it.

It can feel impossible to balance it all especially if you struggle with a perfectionist complex which doesn't allow you to be anything but the best. If so, this list is for you, to remember to take a deep breath throughout the chaos.

"Perfectionism" is a word I have vaguely been aware of from a young age when my mother first identified my inclination towards tearing myself apart over the smallest criticism. For me, striving toward a false ideal of "perfect" is the way that I attempt to control the chaos and unpredictability of my environment.

I had a pretty turbulent childhood (to say the least), and when things were crazy within my home, I learned to cope by being hyper-sensitive about the aspects of my life in which I had control over (typically my school work). I strived to be a "perfect" version of myself and often allowed other people's definitions of success control my mind to a dangerous degree.

One tricky thing about perfectionism is that it is widely socially acceptable.

I remember in high school being praised by my teachers for my "work ethic," reinforcing that this level of performance was respectable and to be desired. Little did my teachers know, that I was hardly sleeping and deeply unhappy, out of touch with my identity outside of this imaginary standard of success that would never be good enough.

Thankfully, throughout my junior and senior year of high school, I did a lot of work dismantling this thought process and incorporating self-care into my list of priorities.

However, this past week, I have taken a couple of L's which have triggered a myriad of toxic thoughts about my intelligence and self-worth. So really, this narrative is just as much for me as it is for you.

It's crucial to remember that your failure (or whatever you may perceive as failure) does not define you. To put my worries into perspective, I often use the rule of two's: asking myself how big of a deal will this be in two weeks? two months? how about two years?

It is easy to feel like one bad grade, missed assignment, or rejection from an internship is so much bigger of a deal than it actually is. It is fine to feel upset about it, but try not to let it ruin your whole day. With that being said, also remember that it is important to feel your feelings. They are valid.

I'm learning to accept that failure is a part of life, and sometimes it can be a blessing in disguise, even if you don't know it yet. If you can, keep your head on your shoulders, take a deep breath, and keep it pushing.

It also helps to take a step back and recognize your priveledge— whatever that means to you.

For me, I always remind myself of how grateful I am to be in my circumstances, while also remembering the hard-work which it took me to get here. Sometimes I find myself feeling guilty because I know that I have an opportunity which not many are afforded, as someone pursuing a college education.

I feel like when I make mistakes, I am essentially wasting away this unique opportunity. Or, I find myself invalidating my struggles by comparing them to other peoples' experiences of a challenge, and then I feel stupid for being upset.

However, this cycle of guilt and doubt is not productive. There is a way to recognize your privilege while still feeling and processing your negative emotions. Instead of guilt, I choose to feel gratitude for these opportunities and hope to use my agency as someone with my experiences to dismantle the dynamics of disadvantage which deprive others of similar opportunities.

Furthermore, I try and recognize my power in creating my own success. Personally, I didn't have much help throughout the college search process. I worked tirelessly throughout High School to secure the grades, extracurricular accolades and scholarship money to go to school out of state, something which wouldn't be financially possible if it weren't for my effort.

Everyone's experience is unique, but in moments of challenge, it is powerful to find pride in your accomplishments. I have a difficult time validating my achievements because I value being humble, but I've learned that it isn't cocky to be proud. Even finding the strength to get up in the morning can be difficult sometimes, so try and give yourself credit where it is due.

You must incorporate face-masks into your self-care routine!

I mean maybe not face-masks, necessarily, but finding a self-care practice that works for you is essential when you're feeling overwhelmed. It can be anything from working out to watching your favorite Netflix documentary. Try and engage in this activity without guilt. Don't worry about what you have to do in an hour. Don't focus on a weird conversation with a friend from the day before. Take the time to be mindful and enjoy that distinct moment in time. You're only going to live that moment once, so there's no point in wasting it away worrying about the past or future.

In particular, meditation is a great form of self-care with many science-based benefits, including the reduction of stress and anxiety. If possible, I highly recommend incorporating a consistent practice into your lifestyle if you struggle with perfectionist tendencies, because it has helped me in more ways than I can fit into this article.

Don't be afraid of seeking help from a professional. Finding the right therapist, support group or just taking the time to work on yourself within a structured context can work wonders for a person's mental health. Just remember to do your research beforehand, to find the best option for you.

If you are a college student experiencing mental health issues, I highly recommend reaching out to your student resource center for more information on resources. For George Washington students, the mental health center offers a variety of counseling and psychological services which are both safe and non-judgmental.

College life, in general, can be tough, especially for us perfectionists. So remember that no matter your challenges, obstacles and failures, you are valuable and deserve to be happy.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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