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Working toward perfection leads to our imperfection

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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We are plagued by this impression that we need to be perfect, when in reality we can only push to be the best versions of ourselves. "You are such a perfectionist," is not a compliment and nobody should strive to be one, because perfection is unattainable.

Nobody can be defined as "perfect." Everyone has flaws and makes mistakes; those concepts are the foundations of being human. With perfection dangled above our heads through the United States' public education system and parental figures, it is becoming more common to want to be someone else rather than accepting ourselves.

The definition of perfect has been skewed and is often used to describe an item or act that is satisfying to someone. However, the true definition is being without fault or being flawless. If everyone were perfect, we would all be the same because there is realistically only one way to obtain perfection by the definition. And if we were all mirror images of each other, there would be no individualism.

People who have perfectionist mindsets do not realize they are hurting themselves by working toward their unattainable goals. Their pursuits can leave them feeling empty or constantly searching for acceptance and approval from others. In German, "Sehnsucht" is a yearning or longing that cannot be satisfied. Sehnsucht describes a perfectionist perfectly: One who is continuously longing or yearning for the status of perfection, but never obtains it because he or she sees their accomplishments as unworthy.

Health issues associated with trying to attain perfectionism include depression, anxiety, eating disorders and low self-esteem. It is not characterized as a mental disorder, but has many of the same warning signs.

Perfectionists develop at young ages due to children being taught to always try their best, which they should. However, this does not mean a child has to achieve this idea of perfection. Some parents use their adolescents to fulfill the dreams they never could, pushing them to be perfect and punishing them if they are not. This leads to children developing self-oriented perfectionism, when one places extreme standards on themselves because they believe they need to be the best at everything.

The U.S. education system is an example of a model that is set up to force children to strive to be perfect. To earn an A in a U.S. school, students must get 90 to 100 percent of questions right. In other countries, such as Ireland, Japan and the United Kingdom, students are given greater leeway when working to obtain an A. In most schools in Ireland, what is equivalent to an A in the U.S. is rewarded when a student receives a 70 percent or higher and students receive an A minus when they get 66 to 69 percent of questions right, according to World Education Services' website. Even with higher expectations of accuracy by the U.S. education system, Ireland's education system is more successful and is ranked ninth in eduction, while the U.S. is ranked 14th, according to Pearson's website. These countries' grading scales are spaced out and give students a greater chance to perform well without having to be perfect.

The media uses our insecurities to make us feed off the idea of perfection. Marketers and companies also target this idea when selling products. However, in books about dystopian societies like "The Giver," "Divergent" or "Fahrenheit 451," it is shown a society cannot be perfect. On the surface it may seem that way, but deep down there are imperfections in everything.

There is a difference between being successful and begin perfect; it is healthy to strive for success. A perfectionist, rather than learning from one's mistakes and growing as an individual, fears failure Perfectionists think anything less than their idea of perfect is failing and are more concerned of what others will think of their mistakes than what they think.

With the concept of perfection pushed down our throats, people are looking for external evidence of their self-worth from money or status. We are all searching for this "perfect" life that we created in our heads as children, and we forget that difficult times, mistakes and flaws are the building blocks of a person. In the end it comes down to the answer to this question: Is reaching perfection worth the cost of losing one's identity?

— Ashley Sutherland Larson Newspapers intern

Copyright 2015 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: August 12, 2015

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