After receiving my first almost-B, as well as undergoing various stressful social and mental moments in freshman year, I decided to be perfect. (Believe me; this was a tough choice.) I guess this decision was partly due to the fact that I was so panicked about my close brush with a 3.9 GPA (and, of course, with the disappointment of my parents) that my brain told me I never wanted to experience that frustration again.
The only way of avoiding the sheer horror of freshman year was, in my mind, to be perfect. I needed to be a stellar student, capable of not only excelling in academics but also standing out in my extracurricular activities. I promised myself I would never get below a 95 on the report card, and I would put all my effort into volunteering, violin and whatever other extra activities I participated in back then. I would receive high scores on all my standardized tests, and I would take the most rigorous courses my school offered.
Of course, thinking back on it, I was a pretty idealistic kid. I think I actually wore myself out more trying to be perfect than just dealing with the consequences of realizing that no one is or ever can be perfect.
But I continued to work hard, ignoring the fact that perfection doesn't exist. I took the SAT, wasn't satisfied with my score and took it again. Again, I wasn't completely satisfied with my score and made plans to take it yet again. I loaded myself with extracurriculars and essentially empty leadership positions. I found a part-time job to take up my already busy afternoons. I forced myself to stay up late, studying and memorizing information I would forget as soon as the test was over. (In fact, I like to think that my motto for much of high school was "Pain is temporary; GPA is forever.")
The only problem was that I didn't know what my ulterior motive or final goal was. I only knew that I wanted to be perfect. And I think the desire to be less perfect and to focus more on my mental health finally hit me when I asked myself the question, "What do you want to do with your life?"
Did I really want to spend my entire life trying to be perfect, knowing deep down that this was practically unattainable? Did I want to spend my whole life stressed, constantly caring about what others thought? Or was it ok to take a break sometimes and not be so high-strung?
I used to think that my final goal was getting into a good college. In some ways, it still is — after all, that's why I work so hard. But I've realized that I don't need to go to Harvard or to Stanford to lead a successful, fulfilling life. And what will I do after I get into that perfect college, once that so-called "final goal" is reached? I can't continue to get into good colleges my entire life — think about how tiring and monotonous that would be.
Sometimes, it's perfectly acceptable to not be perfect. I think certain societies and families expect nothing but perfection, and in my case, a combination of my own high standards mixed with the same high expectations my family sets for me caused me to be too obsessed with perfection. I know now that being flawless is impossible, and whenever those perfectionist tendencies start to appear, I ask myself the question: "What do you want to do with your life?"