Edit Desk: The impossible search for perfection


After my sophomore year of high school, I went on a two-week backpacking trip. There was no cell reception and for once, I was able to truly live my life without distractions.

Annalise Kelloff

The second I came back to reality, I became terrified of my phone. I had hundreds of built up missed calls and way too many messages to catch up on. I felt wildly overwhelmed and did not know where to begin.

Instead of doing the mature thing and responding to my friends, I left everyone “on read.” To elaborate, I read every last message, and did not respond to a single one.

My friends knew I was home, but after countless attempts to reach me, I still didn’t answer. They started to call my parents and message my brother on social media. 

I felt even more pressure by the fact that they reached out to family, but in their defense, I didn’t respond to them for an entire month.

I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t I just respond?

The truth is, I didn’t know how. I felt as though I needed the perfect response before I was even able to say “hello.” 

This was the first time I recognized I am a perfectionist. For me, being a perfectionist is not something I noticed until it greatly affected my relationships with my closest friends.

When I realized I had a problem, I went to six different therapists to try and self-diagnose myself with a reason for my actions. I was trying to find something to blame for my mistreatment of my friends. 

Although I was never diagnosed with anything specific, every therapist told me the same thing: I am obsessed with the idea of perfection.

It eats me alive. It is something that I think about throughout every second of my day. 

At first, being perfect seems like the end goal in life. Why would someone not want to be perfect? 

Except, as Greek fabulist Aesop once said, “It is possible to have too much of a good thing,” and I believe that is true with perfectionism. 

While constantly trying to achieve perfection, it prevents me from being able to complete any task that I do not believe I can execute flawlessly. 

When it comes to my social life, I will not respond to a text until I think of the perfect response or avoid people if I do not think I look good enough.

As for academics, I cannot start an assignment until my environment is spotless, my mind is free and I have enough time and energy to give it my all.

The problem is, that never happens. 

Waiting for perfect conditions to complete a task or live life is only self-sabotaging myself.

Especially in our current world, there is never a “perfect” time to do or start anything. Every minute is unpredictable, and most of our environment is out of our control.

Realizing this was the first step in tackling my troubled mindset. Although I still struggle with intrusive thoughts, I have come to realize that it is not possible to achieve excellence in every facet of my life.

It is important to understand that life is a series of ups and downs and accepting the “downs” is more beneficial than avoiding them.

In order to feel your happiest, let go of the notion of perfection. It is necessary to accept the mediocre in some aspects of life in order to fully let yourself flourish in others and realize what is truly exceptional about yourself. 

In a world where everyone is chasing after an impossible goal of perfection, be human. Let yourself be imperfect and accept failure. Then, learn from it and you will inevitably live a happier and more authentic life.

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