If the agonising strain to get every piece of work absolutely flawless is a daily struggle, you may be one of the growing numbers of students suffering with perfectionism.
While you may think this effort is in your best interests, studies have found that the pursuit of unrealistic standards leads to overwork, wasted time and an inability to complete assignments. If left unchecked, it can, in rare cases, tip over into obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
The good news is, you’re not alone. Perfectionism can affect people of all ages and lifestyles, but it is increasingly prevalent in students. Among university students in the UK, the US and Canada, research has found a 33 percent increase since 1989 in those who feel they must display perfection to secure approval.
It can be exhausting and extremely counterproductive in the long-run, so here are a few tips to help you break free from the perfectionist loop:
Fail every once in a while
This may seem painfully counter-intuitive, but doing something you know you’re not going be to perfect at can help you get accustomed to the uneasy feeling that comes with it.
Being a perfectionist often causes you to subconsciously stick to things you’re good at, which can be incredibly limiting, especially at university where the whole point is to try new things.
“It can be hugely empowering and loosen up the idea that you have to be really good at everything,” psychologist Niels Eek told The Guardian. The less competitive the activity the better, Eek adds.
Look at the bigger picture
To stop yourself from focusing on the minutiae, you might need to reset your targets and consider what the end goal is.
While getting one assignment absolutely perfect is great, it’s no good to you if you fail to submit it on time.
Rather than working to an unobtainable standard, focus more on working to a strict deadline and forcing yourself to submit it whether you think it’s perfect or not. A slightly lower score is better than no score at all. It will keep you on your path to the end goal of securing your degree and, eventually, that dream job.
You’re freakin’ awesome, so celebrate that every once in a while
You’re no doubt familiar with the feeling that whatever you do, it’s just not good enough. We’re here to tell you that it’s simply not true.
Take a moment to appreciate how much you’ve achieved in your life – you’re at university for one! That doesn’t happen by accident.
Rather than rushing on to the next assignment, take some time to feel pride for completing each task. Take a moment to decompress and congratulate yourself on your achievement.
These are just a few simple tips to keep the perfectionist demons at bay. But if you’re really concerned about your perfectionism, then make sure you contact your university counsellor or local doctor. They are always there to help, so never suffer in silence.