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The Hidden Meaning of Perfectionism

I personally find perfection contradictory. Or, at least, a theory that has a part of its definition hidden in the dark, where most people don't see it.

Perfectionism is defined as the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. At first glance of this concept, it seems straightforward. However, for those who do travel beyond the given explanation, for those who creep into the unknown, may think of this as a way of life. Wanting things to be perfect isn’t bad in itself, but making it a daily expectation can have detrimental effects.

According to Medical News Today, perfectionism can seriously negatively impact mental health, and has taken a toll on young adults in recent years. Recent estimates have shown that almost 30 percent of undergraduate students experience symptoms of depression, and perfectionism has been widely associated with these symptoms. This way of viewing the world produces floods of thoughts and feelings when performance falls below their excessively high standards. Instead of striving for success, this determination comes from attempting to avoid failure.

If you ever find your outcomes and achievements dictating your wellbeing, or constantly procrastinating assignments to the last minute because you don’t want it to be incorrect, a shift in mindset may be needed. High- performing students, or any high-performing person, tends to set extremely high standards for oneself. These standards can become unbeneficial if they bring riddling and constant anxiety with them.

Here are some do’s and don'ts when struggling with a perfectionist mindset:


A little is better than nothing. Recognize to put in work, even if it's not 100%. 10% is much better than 0%.

Account for your progress. Watch yourself when you encounter perfectionist tendencies (constant negative thoughts, procrastination, etc.). Find the root of why you tend to act this way, and create new habits for yourself.

Put focus on process rather than results. Implementing efficient work in the present will ensure the wanted outcomes. Become obsessed with being better in the present moment, and results will seem to come to you naturally.


Go through this process alone. Seek entrusted friends, parents, or mentors, for guidance and perspective.

Belittle your self confidence. You’re incredible! Now act like it! Knowing your self worth is such a game changer.

Have an indefinite goal of perfection. Plan on how and what you are aiming to achieve.

In spite of all of this, it's been nice to have been called a “perfect” student in past years, as I’m sure a lot of other students can relate. “Obtaining nothing short of perfection” by definition, is a nice compliment. Yet, the hidden, less talked about explanation, is quite the opposite. Achieving your goals should never come at the expense of a healthy state of mind, which is something more students of this generation should know.


Samantha Smith


Mount St. Mary's Academy

Little Rock



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