OPINION: Perfectionism is a problem?

I’ve met tons of people during my time at Kent State’s main campus from many different backgrounds, in different majors, demographics and ethnicities. Some I knew so well I attended events with them in-person from the “famous” Kent Halloween festivities to just seeing some in class only and nothing more. A connection I shared with these people can in the form of many things from the usual facets that could connect people be it shared interests, opinions and areas of study to name a few. However, none of those were as strong as the collective nature that some of us held in just talking in disdain in how stressed coursework and everything is for us as more of us worked from our best toward one principle: perfection. 

I’ve always held up the standard for myself in my work in high regard as I told my past bosses and peers that I’ll try my best which worked out for the most part going into my final semester at Kent. Sure there were some hiccups and setbacks, but one’s ability to do one’s best always can put a strain on a student. As I write this from my remote dorm in Tri-Towers Rotunda one year into a pandemic outside of my control, I ponder this notion as I recount all the times I had attitudes and tendencies of a perfectionist (and still do). In other words, in how much damage it could be having in these same people I met pre-COVID as many recently told me their increasing distrust and stress in COVID era classes that are mostly if not all remote across my circle. The need and desire for perfection in one’s work isn’t a new issue as it can be layered with the other issues that can plague students. Our desire for perfection can be as noticeable as early as during adolescence with ⅖ kids being perfectionists according to University of WV graduate Katie R even referring it as a potential “public health issue.” I wouldn’t say she’s wrong in saying that perfectionist tendencies can undermine more than just how perfect a painting, code script or written script is. The drawl of it can affect our overall drive as we undermine our potential and get more and more miserable in our work. This more than accounts as metaphorical ammo for why our current generation is just so defeated and sad with more instances of black-and-white thinking and even suicidal tendencies. During a pandemic doesn’t make this easier either as, much like before COVID, these same people in my circle disclosed to me their disdain for the remote class format and one of them reaching me in-person to how “locked” they were in not being/doing enough. 

It’s perfectionism that’s developed an ingrained workaholism state of being in many people as Gorden Flett from York University exclaims how perfectionists can make non-crises seem heavy, “Even when it’s not stressful, they’ll typically find a way to make it stressful.” 

We as students are sometimes left to our own vices and power in a year of increasing stress outside our reach and within ourselves, it makes me yearn for normalcy to arrive sooner rather than later. Its perfectionist attitudes that I feel paved the rise of self-deprecation in ourselves and in how we communicate. Perfectionism doesn’t stop in our work or coursework as social media still permits an environment where physical and lifestyle expectations are as high as we allow them to be as many just try to get by. It was after I watched streaming of The Social Dilemma where I was reminded of the horrors that social media can have on our mentality and themselves as they circle back to people wanting the perfect partner, career and life. 

Its findings like that make me yearn for this pandemic to end as I got my first vaccine for COVID just two weeks ago to get back to normalcy so I can do more than message some of my peers I haven’t seen in over a year. As someone who hasn’t completely recovered from the perfectionist bug, I can sense the amount of strain it’s been setting on people in my circle of friends and family back home as our time inside and remote continues. In terms of ways to beat around the concern that is perfectionism, I would just say it’s sometimes best to abide and act in positive ways than overactive ways while deferring from demanding figures in one’s life. We are all human and should abide by and treat each other as such. Perfection is impossible on a regular basis. We are the best that we can be. Refine the critical nature towards ourselves with kinder messages toward others and our own work and mentality. 


“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”

― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina


Gregory Hess is an opinion writer. Contact him at [email protected]