Facing Perfectionism from Davidson College (Davidson, North Carolina)

An anonymous story, written by Summer Abiad

Sometimes, I just have a great day. Most of my days are pretty great. I am at this amazing school, and I have the best of friends. But sometimes I take it all in, and all of a sudden my day isn’t great anymore. In just a second, that bio grade becomes so real, deflating my GPA like a balloon. The amazing things my best friends are doing make me feel so inadequate. I feel more distant from my family than I ever have before even though all I want to do is be with them to help them. I just can’t keep up with it all, the world is horrible, and how is everyone at Davidson so seemingly perfect?

How is perfectionism even defined? I’ve sat down and thought about it, comparing myself to others and my environment. I don’t know if its healthy or not, but I did it anyway.

Starting with academics. Who is the perfect student? I’ve got classes and labs, and the professors think we can dedicate all our time just to their class. I’m just like any other student here. But I am drowning in work, while it seems like most other people can cope better than I can. Or at least their grades seem better. If I came here looking for a challenging environment, am I then allowed to complain about how hard it is? Do I just keep my mouth shut, work hard, and hope to survive?

But deep down I know that we are all probably struggling with the academic stress associated with this school. Davidson College… I worked so hard to get here, my parents worked so hard to get me here, and I’m going to make the best of it. At the end of the day, I’m lucky to be pushing my limits at an amazing school like this.

But how can I be perfect in my hobbies when I can’t even do what I love anymore? Before Davidson, theatre was my everything. My life felt perfect because I was so involved with theatre. Back home, I was in every show, but I haven’t even been casted once here. It’s been really hard coming to terms with needing to leave that part of my life behind. The people here are just so talented. For a while it made me sad. It was part of my old identity, an identity I felt confident about.

But looking forward…it’s really been a blessing in disguise. Not being involved with theatre has given me the opportunity to be involved with more organizations that support Autism. It’s something very near to my heart, and I’m glad I finally have time to be involved with Buddy Club and Ignite, and I hope to serve even more. If I were in theatre, then I don’t know how I would’ve had time for that. So I guess I’m lucky to be finding new passions, and I’m seeing that I can be an even better version of my self.

And now thinking about my friends, the incredible people I have met this year. They actually are perfect. They are confident, smart, unique, cool, smart, kind and giving people. And when I compare myself to them, (which I know I shouldn’t, but it’s a natural thing to do), I feel so inadequate. How is he getting way better grades than I am when I put in so much more work? How are people so involved, do well in class, find time to socialize, and then still sleep? Am I doing something wrong? What’s the magic secret that my friends seem to have unlocked?

But at the end of the day, I have chosen to surround myself by these champions of life. And somehow, in the little time we’ve known each other, we’ve clicked and become family. I love and truly admire them, and they are seemingly perfect to me. They make me want to be a better person. Perhaps even they feel like everyone else is more perfect than they are. Each of us have our own problems, and we keep them to ourselves. This only perpetuates that false image of perfection. I’m actually quite lucky to be surrounded by such amazing people, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Ultimately, I think it’s impossible to define perfection. I realize that there is something else you have to do or be in order to be perfect. I can’t be perfect. I can’t have it all… but at the same time, I realize now that I kind of do have it all. I know how lucky I am to be here. I know how lucky I am to have met these wonderful people. I know how lucky I am to be doing the things I am doing. I couldn’t have asked for more. I am beyond thankful. It’s crazy how life can seem great, but then you feel stressed and inadequate. But then, with just a shift in perspective, you can get it all back again. Davidson can be stressful, but it can also be great. I want to tell myself that it doesn’t matter whether or not I am perfect. I am so lucky. I am really, really, lucky.

This story originally appeared in Facing Perfectionism, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina.

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