Being a perfectionist in an academic sense can be unbelievably exhausting.

In high school, I used to always be the type of person to be a huge perfectionist in my school work. I know this may seem like a good thing, but it was destructive in a way. I would throw aside spending time with friends, family and even myself in the pursuit of getting a 100 on an assignment. My homework was always done on time, I studied until I couldn’t anymore and I burned myself out completely by the time I arrived here at Fairfield University for my first year.

That, in turn, made my first taste of college academics somewhat exhausting. I continued that perfectionism to an unnecessary and unreasonable degree. I came into college with the mindset that I was going to be the best student ever. That mindset only resulted in me being burnt out very early on in the semester in my attempts to prove myself right.

Perfectionism obviously comes in other forms than academic validation. It can be a push to be a people-pleaser, it could take the form of cleanliness and neatness and it can be frustrating to feel these ways. If you feel this way, I can assure you that you are valid for feeling it. 

Life shouldn’t be taken that seriously, and I have learned that time and time again. When I got contact-traced for COVID-19 in March of 2021 and ended up testing positive at the very end of my quarantine, I realized that I had to be more spontaneous and let loose more than I ever let myself. After all, I was basically stuck in my room for over three weeks (at the time, contract tracing meant a 10-day quarantine and a positive test meant a 14-day quarantine) and realized there had to be more to my freshman year than droning away at my desk.

Events like this have shown me that no matter how difficult your classes may get or how much work may be piling on, there is a reason for you doing this work and eventually, you will reap the rewards of your high effort. But don’t try to overdo it, because at a certain point keeping your effort at the maximum will cause you to crash, and the motivation will completely dwindle. Give yourself breaks. You have earned them.

If you were ever like me and freak out internally if you forget to complete an assignment, I can assure you that this is just one assignment that counts as a part of your grade in a whole sea of assignments. This will not be the end of your academic career and you will absolutely be able to make up for it. Grades are not everything and do not define a person.

Harvard University’s Academic Resource Center shows that perfectionism in academics may be linked with overcompensating for work and not knowing when to stop. If you were like me and overdid every assignment just to give yourself a greater sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, I urge you to take a step back and assure yourself that a healthy balance between school and life is of the utmost importance. 

As I’ve been told many times before, we are on a floating rock in the middle of outer space. That one assignment isn’t too important in the grand scheme of things. Give yourself that break that you have earned. 


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