The Price of Perfection

Sooner or later everyone fails at something. An employee at a high-tech corporation misses a meeting and feels like the world is crashing down on him when all of his co-workers are ahead of the game. An “A” average student gets a “C” in a class she worked diligently in but still feels like she’d taken a punch to the stomach when all of her friends get better grades. Even the most cautious, responsible individuals forget to pay their taxes on time, or miss an important event, or realize they haven’t completed an assignment. Today, it seems like people try too hard to be perfect. Expectations from parents, teachers, employers and even an individual’s own goals to achieve greatness eat away at a person’s thoughts until he realize that there never is a way to be completely perfect. This revelation becomes the equivalent of a bomb exploding, as the person crumbles into a pile of defeat when his ambitions fail to impress. Yet, if an individual simply tried to achieve his personal best instead of perfection, the bomb would falter, for the person would feel relieved and proud for doing the best that he knew he could do.

As a high school senior, I admit that I have not known a wide variety of people in the world, but I have seen and known enough to come to the conclusion that my generation is the generation of perfectionism. I have seen friends I have known since elementary school torn apart by their desires to be perfect in academics, athletics and extra-curriculars. When they realize that someone else attained a better grade point average or scored more points they rapidly become like depleted balloons sinking to the earth faster than stones. I found myself in a pit of despair the summer before my senior year: my grades had not been as good as I had expected them to be; some of my extra-curriculars had been dropped or downsized due to the economy. All I saw ahead of me was another year of disappointment, another year of coming so close but still under-achieving my standards. I had to accept that even though my year was not that “perfect” senior year I had dreamed about, it wasn’t over yet, and I still had a chance to make it my version of “perfect.”

Perfection is a quality that in the history of the world, many have tried, but all have failed to accomplish. Napoleon and Michael Jordan are some historical “perfectionists” who seemed invincible, unstoppable in attaining greatness. But even they failed: Napoleon’s brilliant invasions to conquer all of Europe were thwarted by General January in Russia; Michael Jordan missed plenty of three-pointers that would have won the game for his team. My generation seems poised to not repeat history. In school, we are taught not to earn an education, but to earn a flawless education. Colleges and employers seek the “most qualified applicants,” in other words those students or employees with the best references, the best grades, the best personality, the best anything. People get the false impression that they must be the best to even be able to compete with others for an admission to school or a selection for a job. In reality, there will always be someone who will do better on tests, better on applications, better in a work environment. And until people realize that they will usually be second best, they will continue to strive to be perfect until they lose all focus on just striving to be the best individual possible.

My wish for my generation is for people to realize that they will not be able to always be better than someone else. They should strive for success and work to the best of their abilities, but never overachieve to the point of desiring perfection. Once people float back down to earth from the high havens of dream-world and realize that they cannot ever achieve complete perfection, the extreme standards of competition will vanish. Until then, people will continue to strive to impossible heights and abuse themselves later when they try to scale the building and fail. The fall from perfection is a long one indeed, but the climb back up to the edge of satisfaction is even longer.

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