Perfectionism in a modern world

The word concept of being perfect is being implemented more and more in society without being labelled as such. While most of the human population is aware that being ‘perfect’ is an unattainable and, therefore, painful goal, we still find ourselves trapped in a bubble of wanting and expecting more and more in our lives.

What does perfection mean, exactly? According to Merriam-Webster, it’s a quality or state of being free of all possible flaws or defects. But what does it mean in our world? What does it mean on social media or college applications?

Humans weren’t built for perfection in every aspect of our lives, seeing as our definition of perfection changes day to day. Most of the time we realize this, as coined by the term “I’m only human”, which, quite frankly, is mostly used as an excuse for our own laziness, but that’s another article. This phrase exemplifies the fact that we are aware of our flaws and incapability to be what we hope to live up to.

However, when teens these days see photoshopped images on social media, or see overworked seniors get deferred from colleges and internships, our perception of what demands we have to meet in our lives are change.

On popular social media platforms, such as Instagram or YouTube many images and videos viewed by others with filters and poses that only appear natural. While those images are not branded as ‘perfect’, they most certainly are uploaded to attract an audience that aspires to live an idealistic life. These subtle inundations of idealistic lives lead to an unhealthy desire of a picture-perfect-perfection, whether this is about body image or extravagant usage of money.

At a high-pressure environment like Harvard-Westlake (HW), college is more the norm than exception. 63% of high-school graduates attend college in California, according to PACE, the Policy Analysis of California Education, and in 2016, 69.7% of graduates attended college nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. At HW, it has been ingrained in us since we step foot onto campus, that it is not enough to just be smart or athletic anymore. We are no longer the superstars at our previous smaller schools. We are all tiny fish in a huge pond, fighting to be noticed.

When applying to college, we are expected to bring something to the table other than smarts. We can’t just study, pass exams, and have a shot at a ‘good’ college, we need to have something extra, an extracurricular activity or a hobby that we are passionate about. And don’t get me wrong, I am all for individuality and not training our future generation to be brain-powered robots, but at the same time it creates an expectation to have a well rounded life.

While that expectation can push us to join a sport, or start an instrument, which can be life-changing, it can also push students to do extracurricular activities for the looks of it. To brand ourselves as a well rounded student on paper. Being well rounded is just another word for being proficient in different fields, or being ‘perfect’. The demand for perfection is never-ending.

In the 21st century, with social media and the rapid spread of information along with the ever-competitive market for college and then jobs, the image of perfection in our generation is superficial. An influencer’s vlog can show the superficial aspects of a seemingly perfect or glamorous life, but it may not show the quiet, invisible moments that we all have. Parallel, a teenager who has straight A’s and plays varsity sports may seem to have it all, but they may have their own image of what they want or need to be.

Whether in our personal, academic even professional life, we always have images of what our life should look like. Whether or not we choose to let that image control our actions is up to us. Be focused and have goals, but don’t get bogged down in the pursuit of perfection. Don’t live an impossible life.

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