Jillian Lesson, a high school student at Frankel Jewish Academy, explores the idea of being perfectly imperfect.

By Jillian Lesson

Downfalls of Perfectionism
Image courtesy of Jillian Less

Perfectionism. That word seems to have such a positive connotation, doesn’t it? While being a perfectionist from the outside may seem like a great strength, it is the weakness of many. I’m sure if in some sort of interview I was asked what my weakness is, and I said “being a perfectionist”, they would see that as some kind of underhand compliment to myself.

While I have other weaknesses to portray, being a perfectionist is one of them. Our society praises perfection. Yes, we are sometimes told that perfection isn’t attainable, but what we see on the media and what we hear about college requirements overpower listening to “Nobody’s Perfect” by Hannah Montana on repeat.

Being someone with an all or nothing mindset, I take these messages intensely, especially when it comes to my grades. I am someone who works really hard to achieve the grades I obtain, and when my hard work doesn’t seem to lead me to perfection, I often see it as failure.

If I’m working so hard for good grades, for perfection, then why aren’t my grades perfect? Not obtaining these “perfect grades”, even being only a “minus” below my desired grade, makes me feel like I am a failure.

If I can’t achieve perfect grades, then what else is there to me?

Sometimes, I feel like grades are all I have to prove my worth, and I have been so mistaken. My fear of failure has caused me to avoid it at all means. I’ve missed chances and wasted time beating myself up for the imperfect aspects of my life performance, all because things weren’t “perfect.” In reality, perfection does not exist.

Basically, I have chased my own tail in circles, trying and trying to go after an unattainable goal, and I have wasted precious moments by going crazy over failing to achieve the impossible. How is that fair to me? What happened to the spontaneous side of me? The one that made my mistakes into the greatest art?

I have envied people like that — people who allow themselves to make mistakes only to end up with a beautiful masterpiece. But I am that person. I can be that person again. Once I get out of this vicious all or nothing, perfectionist cycle.

I believe everyone is somewhat of a perfectionist in varied aspects of life. Maybe you are a cook, and you need every recipe to be perfect, or you simply delete any Instagram picture that doesn’t exceed 200 likes.

What if society was less focused on perfectionism, and more focused on growth and character?

I would be saddened to look back in ten years and see that throughout high school, I lost myself to my GPA. No matter how high my GPA could be, that number could never equal my worth. Now I am striving to get to the point where I would rather get straight C’s than to lose myself and miss out on the opportunities around me.

Who you are is so much more important than all the things you think define you. Your grades, your Instagram likes, your trophies, your car, the size of your house — none of that defines you.

Your soul is what defines you — your acts of kindness, your family and friends, your loyalty, enthusiasm, what you truly enjoy doing. And if you’re losing that to a hyper-fixation on what you think defines you, it is not worth it.

I’ve been taking steps to become less of a perfectionist regarding my grades. With technology, we have almost immediate access to our grades. Last year, I would get notifications on my phone with the grades I got on certain assignments, and that caused me to have a lot of anxiety and fixation during the day.

So, I simply turned off the notifications, and limited the amount of times per week I can check my grades. Doing this has naturally caused me to not obsess over not always getting a perfect grade.

Sometimes I’m a perfectionist about random things. For example, it’s really hard for me to draw because I’m not a perfect artist. However, in these moments of discontent, I have to remind myself to let go of these unattainable goals of being good at everything.


Image via Getty Images

Even though I will have to think about college soon and endure the expectations of a “perfect” application, I now have the faith that I will end up wherever I am supposed to be.

Living a messy, creative, spontaneous, beautiful, fulfilling life is so much more important than your GPA, your likes on social media, or anything else that fixates around perfection.

Please do not lose yourself to perfection. We only have so much time to make a beautiful mess in this world, so let’s make the most of it.

Jillian Lesson is a tenth grader at Frankel Jewish Academy. Born and raised in West Bloomfield, Jillian’s favorite things to do are reading, writing, and traveling. She also enjoys participating in tennis on the school’s varsity tennis team, being involved in UMatter, volunteering at Friendship Circle, and listening to “Hamilton” on repeat. She is the daughter of Lauren and Randy Lesson and the younger sister to Josh and Corey. To read more inspiring words from Jillian, visit her blog: https://journeytojillianblog.wordpress.com/

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