The Problem with Perfectionists
Dr. John Eliot once said, “Great performers are, by definition, abnormal; they strive throughout their entire careers to separate themselves from the pack” when talking about overachievement. With a high class rank, involvement in several activities, and enrolled in all possible honors classes, one might say I would qualify as an overachiever.I grew up surrounded by other overachievers, and the need to “separate from the pack” soon becomes a need to be the best at everything.
But what is “the best”? The society involving overachievers can be classified as a different level of a main society. In this, all individuals are striving to be at the top, making them conform to what society deems best.Right now, I am beginning to have to make choices about my future, and I realized that society defines the “best” places to work, and what you have to do to make your life count. Your life should be defined by you. Society pushes overachievers to fit a certain image.
First, society assures overachievers that they need to be the best. As a child, I was sometimes placed in accelerated groups for math or reading. There came a point and a time where I realized that yes, the groups I were in were accelerated, but there were groups that were more accelerated. I remember always wanting to be in the top groups for everything. When I got to the seventh grade, my obsession of getting all As began.
It started out at first as getting prepared to have a good future, but it soon became a quest to be the best I could be. To this day I still get stressed about minor assignments, and I am a mess during finals week, even though I know I could survive if I got a B. Overachievers push and push to be the best, but they end up losing their minds in the process. Overachievers have inner insecurities that make them feel like if they aren’t perfect, they will be just another average person. Being average to overachievers is the same as being unimportant.
They forget that grades don’t determine their worth. Getting good grades will help my future, but they aren’t everything. Life won’t come easy for an overachiever if they always strive to be better than others. Someone out there is always going to be better than you at something. An overachiever will do well in life if they take their abilities and work hard.
Accepting that you are not perfect will ultimately make your life better. Additionally, society makes overachievers feel the need to participate in prestigious activities. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘prestige’ as “the respect and admiration that someone or something gets for being successful or important.” But currently, prestige defines huge communities of the elite that want people to envy them. To me, this concept begins at an early age. As a kid, I fit in with some kids, but I never fit it to the whole group.
I don’t think that the society of the fifth grade would ever classify me as successful for the times. To this day, I don’t even know why certain kids fit into certain cliques, and some just float along. Now let’s jump forward to junior year. Today, my fellow classmates and I are beginning the process of searching for a college. Some, like me, just want to go somewhere that won’t cost that much, but will still have good academics. Some go to top name schools because their parents went there or because they love the programs.
Others strive to find a place they believe has good academics just because culture has deemed that college more prominent than others. And just like the cliques of the fifth grade, I do not understand why renowned colleges are so great. One would assume that if they are a part of something great, then they must be great, right? Wrong. Just because a certain group, a way of living, or a career field is deemed more successful than yours doesn’t mean it automatically brings them up and shoves you down. If you work hard and do your part, you will be just as successful as anyone else that is working hard at their own job.
Whether it be the trials of fifth grade or the perils of college searching, prestige is an unnecessary way of rating cliques, colleges, or people. Society is putting more pressure on students to go into up and coming fields. A while back, I had a friend who was really motivated to go into science, and was passionate about it for a long time. However, tragedy struck when he entered high school, and his grades began to slip. When I asked him how he was doing, he responded by saying, “I guess if I am not good in science now, I will never be.
I think I should go into something easier to be more successful.” Two things should make you cringe when reading that. One, society told him that in order to go into a scientific career, getting good grades is the only way to go about getting there. Two, giving up your dream to be good at something is practical, but unfulfilling. You don’t have to be brilliant in math or science to be successful. Recently, my school started a huge push for STEM oriented careers because they will be the future.
Not to be disrespectful, but hasn’t there been new technology and science in every generation? From the first cave man who discovered fire to the new advances with computers, technology is changing in every generation. There are going to be more jobs in every career field when my generation is older. There is no need to feel a push into a scientific field if you don’t have to go there. You should follow what you want to do, even if it isn’t practical. Still, society convinces overachievers that you must also be concerned with what others are doing. Everyone wishes to be a part of a group.
When I was younger, I thought I was extremely awkward. Looking back, I now realize I was just the same as everyone else. In middle school, I floated around until I found friends with common interests. All my close friends want to go into scientific fields, and they always talk about how taking a fourth year of science is a key to getting into a good program. I, on the other hand, want to go into a field where I can work with people.
The thing is, society doesn’t say these fields are what smart people do. They say smart people are the people who will change the world. And by change the world, they mean take on the handful of jobs that are promoted over the others. I believe smart people are the ones who thing for themselves. Andrew Yang, the founder of Venture for America, addresses this notion: “The economic potential of individuals and America alike instead relies on risk takers who choose a different path.”We should be promoting individual ideas because we need individuals who are creative and can think for themselves if we want to grow up in a prosperous society.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle.” All overachievers are overachievers because they bring something different to the table. Overachievers have the potential to go far in life, and they will be successful if they work hard.Don’t accept a fate you don’t want.
Learn to be the commander of your future. All in all, society is telling overachievers to conform to the same ideas, even though overachievers believe this will make them stand out. Society pushes overachievers to attempt to be the best by having competition for meaningless tasks. Society proposes that people should be in specific groups, making prestige a ridiculous concept. Society wants people to adapt to certain career fields instead of allowing people to be smart in all fields. Finally, society convinces people to be the same instead of celebrating their own ideas.
The hardest part is taking the first step to break away. When a caffeine addict gives up caffeine, the pain they feel is physical and mental. Just like caffeine addicts, overachievers know that the pain of breaking away is real. If an overachiever can be patient and if they can let their dreams motivate them, they will have what it takes to be hardworking and successful.