Perfection Definition Essay Example

There is no such thing as achieving overall perfection in life, yet somehow it remains a goal in which people take drastic measures in hope of achieving. In Judith Guest's Ordinary People, a prominent theme is perfectionism. The Jarrett family in the novel is made of perfectionists, and their perfect world is thrown off-course by the boating accident. Through watching their struggle, readers learn how perfectionism is unhealthy, gives a false sense of security, and controls the perfectionist. Achieving perfection is nearly impossible, but modern teenagers still strive for it due to the unrealistic social norms embedded in society. This ultimately leads teenagers to accumulate unhealthy amounts of stress, which interferes with their ability to enjoy life and find true happiness.

What Causes Perfectionism

Perfectionism tends to be extremely unhealthy to the perfectionist as it often causes one to prioritize their social image over mental health. In order to maintain this image, they will forget all that isn't perfect, even if it means bottling up their raw, messy emotions. One example of this is how Beth asked Calvin, "Will you talk to him [Conrad]... [a]bout the clothes. He's got a closetful of decent things and he goes off every day looking like a bum..." (Guest 7). This shows that she cares more about Conrad's appearance than what he is experiencing emotionally following Buck's death. Beth cares about the way others perceive Conrad because he contributes to her and her family's social image. The same goes for teenagers who use perfectionism to block others from seeing their insecurities. What this successfully achieves is concealing emotion, potentially resulting in deep sadness. How can emotion truly be dealt with if one refuses to acknowledge its existence? According to the Center for Discovery, depression is becoming increasingly common in the teenage generation; this is primarily due to teenagers having impossibly high standards for themselves, and not knowing how to deal with emotion that could disrupt their chances of reaching these standards. If they are not reached, then the teenager will most likely feel awful about themselves. The most prominent source of negative emotion for these perfectionists is their biggest enemy, chance.

When uncommon situations present themselves to a perfectionist, everything that was once orderly can come crashing down despite their sense of security derived from perfectionism. Before Buck's death, Calvin was a perfectionist, and he assumed that his neatness equated orderliness in life. This proved to be not the case following the boating incident. Calvin painfully admits, "...not anything - cleared you through the terrifying office of chance; that it is chance and not perfection that rules the world" (90). He realizes that his tidy ways were no match for chance—the chance that one of his sons could die. This realization hit him so hard that he abandoned perfectionism completely. Many teenage perfectionists take minor problems as though they are the end of the world and freak out, instead of calmly handling them. For example, the false sense that all is splendid and will stay that way can come crashing down on a teenager when they see that their grade has changed from an A to a B due to a tricky test; this possibly can cause a whole night of insomnia and turmoil. This false idea that neatness equates to order causes perfectionists to lack the preparedness to deal with tough situations. When these imperfect situations do come rolling around, and the perfectionist has to make a choice, they tend to make a choice with more consideration towards staying perfect than towards being happy.

How to Overcome Perfectionism and Procrastination

Like a drug, perfectionism controls its user; it causes him or her to make decisions that may be regretted. For example, when Calvin asked Beth on her thoughts if he were to ever cheat on her, she replied, "... I would never come back, not for a house... not for the children, not for anything. It is too humiliating" (176). To keep up with being perfect, Beth admits that she would abandon her husband if he cheated on her, even if only Calvin and herself knew about it. If Calvin did cheat on Beth, her choices following that situation should not be made based on the demands of perfectionism. Beth admitted to her inability to forgive Calvin, a result of perfectionism. Rather, her choices should be made based on what she truly wants, whether it truly is to leave him or if it is to give him a second chance. Beth's perfectionism is so strong that she'd have a hard time living with something imperfect even if she and her husband were the only ones who knew of it. Though most would view an unfaithful relationship as a tough one that needs to be worked on, Beth sees it as a mess, the one thing she can't stand. Teenagers, too, make decisions that take into account being perfect rather than taking into account the big picture—their enjoyment of life. Certain perfectionist teenagers decide to ditch best friends or not pursue certain interests due to those friends or interests not being up to a certain standard needed to seem perfect. One needs to make a decision based on their own feelings using critical thinking, not based on being perfect.

Perfectionism and its flawed nature lay prominently in the life of teenagers and likewise, the book Ordinary People. If perfectionism is unhealthy, creates a false sense of security, and can be toxically controlling, is being a perfectionist truly worth it? Through analyzing the theme of perfectionism in both the book and an average teenager's life, one can conclude that perfectionism is not worth it; it generally causes a lower quality of life. Perfectionism must be discussed and read about in order to be fully understood for what it is: an unrealistic and unachievable standard. One must learn that their imperfections aren't something to be ashamed of; rather they are something to be embraced as that is what differentiates one person from another and helps us to live through tough times. Teenagers in this modern world should be focusing on making a difference locally and globally and efficiently preparing for their future, not just doing everything perfectly, especially for something trivial or to get a great GPA. More so than ever, in a time fraught with depression and anxiety, it is time to take one's enjoyment of life and happiness into consideration; it is key to realize that living up to society's demands is doing no good. The major upside of perfectionism for teenagers is pleasing others and colleges. It is time to change for the better and abandon perfectionism, as it has more downsides than upsides, as perfection is imperfect.


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