Self-actualization proves most noble quest

What does it mean to be perfect? Deep down, we all strive for perfection. But our obsession with perfectionism holds us back. A recent Huffington Post article honed in on the negative aspects of perfectionism, delving into the many consequences of striving for this ideal.

Every day, advertisements and media bombard us with images that alter our way of thinking. They shift our attention towards the perfection of celebrities, the flawless skin of models, the perfect auto-tuned voices of singers and the success of businessmen who run multi-million dollar corporations.

These themes of perfection infiltrate into homes and schools. Young children are told by their parents and teachers that they can be whoever they want to be. But they have to work hard, be the smartest, the strongest, the tallest, the cleverest or have the most money. They need perfection.

But is perfection worth it? Perfection even plays a large role in the lives of Oles around campus. What does the perfect Ole look like? Are they a double major with a concentration, all in unrelated fields of coursework? Are they involved in a sport, some musical ensemble or both? Should they be a member of at least four organizations, volunteer regularly and work a part-time job on the side? The perceived notion is that the perfect Ole will do all this while maintaining over a 3.5 G.P.A. Perfection.

Oles work hard because we are motivated to make the most of our education. In order to be successful and get a job after graduation, we need to stand out from others and show that we worked the hardest. In the business world, it’s all about who you know and how you use those connections. The Piper Center even has the Connections Program, designed to provide Oles with connections across the nation for after graduation.

The author of the article in the Huffington Post argues that perfection doesn’t make you perfect. Everyone should establish a line of how far is too far. What price are you willing to pay for success? Perfectionists are consumed by the fear of failure and often have distorted self-images. And the images the media portray do nothing to reduce those fears; they only reinforce them. Perfectionists can become hypercritical of others, comparing their actions to the standards of society. Sometimes it’s easier to tear down someone else for doing something wrong.

Many perfectionists pretend to be strong, even if they aren’t. They put up barriers against their friends and direct their attention towards other things, like classes or clubs. This unfortunately means that perfectionists are at higher risks of developing mental illnesses, such as an eating disorder or depression. The daily demands can slowly take their toll on anyone. Is this idea of perfection really worth risking your mental health?

This doesn’t mean to stop trying. But perfection is the unattainable ideal. There’s always something more to do, something that could be fixed. It’s a never-ending cyclical effect of failure and disappointment.

Instead, set aside perfection and stop competing with society. Life becomes less stressful. Without those high expectations, there’s less chance of being disappointed if something doesn’t work out. Try the hardest you can, and that’s enough.

The Dalai Lama preaches compassion and kindness towards one another. But perfection? The Dalai Lama explains: “By this vain striving for perfection in a world where everything is relative, they wander even farther away from inward peace and happiness of mind.” Perfection doesn’t bring you happiness.

As Oles, we should try our hardest but recognize our individual limits. Perfection is something that can never be reached. That’s why it’s perfect. In fact, the only thing perfectionists fight against is themselves.

Katie Haggstrom ’14 is from Omaha, Neb. She majors in English.