Perfectionism runs rampant at IMSA and it’s not that surprising.
Many of us grew up as the golden child. We were the ones with all As, the ones who won every competition, the ones who got into all the advanced and honors programs, and the ones who performed excellently. At IMSA, however, we aren’t the best at everything we do, and this can be to our detriment.
An anonymous senior used their self as an example. “Perfectionism, especially here at IMSA, has made me very stressed,” they say, “It makes me feel like I have to put my all into every assignment.” Sometimes perfectionism has small effects, like making us spend unnecessarily large amounts of time trying to solve a problem on our homework. Sometimes perfectionism at IMSA has larger effects, like when we drive ourselves mad trying to attain impossible results. It can even make us give up on trying at all because why bother doing something if it’s not perfect? YouTuber Nathan Zed empathizes with that claim. On November 25th, 2016, Zed posted a guest video on the vlogbrothers YouTube channel entitled ‘You’re Not Good Enough’. The video tackles perfectionism and how it holds people back and I feel it’s extremely relevant to a large part of the IMSA community. Zed talks about how his fear of imperfection has made him pull back from his interests and I know this has happened to a number of IMSA students. As the anonymous senior puts it, “It wrecks your self-confidence because when you don’t do perfect on that homework assignment then you think ‘Oh I’m dumb’ or ‘I’m not smart enough for this’.” The ‘this’ we aren’t smart enough for can range from a class or a co-curricular to IMSA itself.
One of my closest friends considered dropping out of their math class because they weren’t doing well enough. Another friend quit Scholastic Bowl because they were good, but not good enough. Yet another friend never even tried out for Chess Team because while they were good in their hometown they assumed they weren’t good enough to compete with other IMSA students. We’ve all had classmates who just stop trying to study because they figure that even when they do study, their results aren’t good enough.
Instead of striving to achieve impossible standards, we should stop and consider the question, we should ask ourselves the question of why we bother attempting to achieve those standards in the first place.
“I’m not an amazing singer, why sing at all?” Zed proposes. If you’re not a brilliant artist, why join Heliotrope? If you’re not a great actor, why try out for the Drama Club play? If you can’t do AP physics why take ModPhys? If you’re not a genius in math and science, why go to IMSA? We’ve all asked similar questions to ourselves when we should be asking – why does it matter? According to the senior, “Just because it’s not perfect doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of being IMSA-quality work. If you enjoy something then just do it!”
Practice art if you aren’t an artist yet, be an extra if you can’t act. Instead of taking classes to succeed, take classes to learn. As Nathan Zed suggests, “Just do things.” We shouldn’t have to be the best to justify having fun. Sing if you want to sing, act if you want to act. I think at IMSA we forget that we can do things just for the sake of doing it. We don’t have to hold ourselves to a ridiculously high standard for everything. We don’t always have to be good enough: we just have to be happy.