top of page

What Perfectionism Failed to Teach Me

I am the epitome of a perfectionist. I am almost 99% sure that if you were to look up "perfectionist" in the dictionary, you would see my face smiling back at you. Alright, that might be a bit of an over exaggeration.

In high school, I was a straight-A student. I busted my butt to get perfect grades so I could get into my dream college. I remember being upset when I received a "B" on a paper, because it meant I had not done enough. The need to be perfect transferred into my art as well. Nothing I created was ever good enough for me. Absolutely nothing, which is kind of ironic, because I was known as the artsy kid in school. My need to make the perfect art sucked the joy and soul out of the creating process itself. By the time I graduated high school, I had lost my desire to create, because I saw the goal of becoming the perfect artist as unachievable. Why bother?

In contrast, college was such a slap in the face. I was working 20-30 hours per week, taking 18 credit hours, volunteering in a lab, and trying to maintain the faintest glimpse of a social life. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and on the verge of a mental breakdown. All the while, I fully expected myself to be the perfect student, employee, and friend. In reality, I was barely passing my classes. No mattered how hard I worked and studied, I could not change the fact that I was epically failing my goal of being perfect. This realization made me feel incredibly miserable.

Graduate school became my so-called "redemption". I was determined to be a better student so I could become the perfect dietitian. I continued to work 20 hours per week, ran for a position on the graduate student association's board, took 17 credit hours, and tried yet again to maintain the faintest glimpse of a social life. You see where I am going here? Yep, I had a complete mental breakdown during my first semester of graduate school. I literally cried, because I was putting all of this effort into my studies and was barely passing two required classes. Once again, I was not smart enough. I was not good enough. I was not perfect.

Through the tears of my mental breakdown, I was able to take a step back and really examine my "failures" in the pursuit to perfection. I was so focused on what I was doing "wrong" that I did not see what I had accomplished in my short 26 years of life. I earned my Bachelor's degree from one of the best public universities in the country. I transferred into the pre-medical school track my sophomore year of college and still graduated on time. I worked my way through college while taking difficult classes. I then went on to earn a spot at one of the country's best graduate-level public health schools.

Every time I faced a challenge or barrier, I fought my way through to the other side. No matter how rough life has felt, I have never given up on my dreams. As a result, I became a strong, intelligent, capable, and determined young woman. No, I did not achieve perfection. I gained and learned so much more in spite of it.

That is the thing- we are not meant to be perfect in any of our endeavors. We are supposed to make mistakes. We are supposed to fail. We are suppose to fall flat on our faces. It is through our adversities that we learn and grow the most as individuals.

bottom of page