Being a ‘perfectionist’ at university
In this blog I thought I would head down a more personal route and discuss a topic relevant to me, and I’m sure many of you guys!
To start with, what is perfectionism? Well, essentially someone considered a perfectionist is someone with extremely high standards. In many cases, high standards of themselves. As the cover image shows, (credit to https://www.humaninthesystem.co.uk/blog/unhealthyperfectionist ) perfectionism is wanting yourself to be better than what is already perceived as being excellent!
I’ve been labelled a perfectionist (casually by family and friends) throughout my educational life. From primary school, when I daren’t produce scruffy handwriting, to secondary school, in which I would spend countless hours on projects to ensure they reached my ‘standard’. And now we reach university, the pinnacle of education, and I still very much find myself susceptible to wanting to always produce the best work. Producing the ‘best’ work may seem a common trait amongst students, however when combined with a ‘fear’ of failing, and constantly wanting to maintain high marks 24/7, it can take its toll.
I am by no means stating that wanting to produce the best quality of work is a bad thing. Congratulate yourselves- you are keen, enthusiastic, dedicated and will go far! I will talk about some of the negatives, however, and some advice which I often tell myself when times get tough.
Being a perfectionist…
..is extremely time consuming
Don’t get me wrong- as a university (or any other) student we should be taking time to produce great work. One of the things that takes the most time for me, however, is the endless proof reading, checking that everything is in place. It annoys me, as I know I should be moving onto other work once one piece is done, however I find it difficult to move from one piece of work to another! I’m often reading over work until late at night, which also makes me tired the next day.
To avoid wasting as much time, I usually make myself stop working at a certain time (which also makes me sleep earlier). Also, after reading through my work properly from start to finish a couple of times, I tell myself that I have done enough. The important thing is to take control of your mindset, and trust that you’ve done enough.
..wears you down
Not only does being a perfectionist make you mentally tired, as a result of all the stress and whirlwind of emotions constantly in your mind, but it physically wears you down too. I find myself very tired, often lacking energy when I haven’t even been doing much.
At university, I have found several ways to reduce the overall ‘worn down’ feeling. For example, I tried Yoga and Pilates and found that I came from the sessions feeling somewhat revitalised. Try and get in a habit of doing things other than work, such as reading. This can ensure that you’re focused on something else and can relieve stress. Finally, it sounds obvious, but make sure you eat 3 meals a day and drink plenty of water because without these essentials, your body will already be worn down- not a good start to the day!
..makes you fear failure
Probably the worst impact of wanting perfection is the fear of failure that comes with it. This means worrying excessively about the result you’ll receive in exams and assignments. It’s normal to worry, but when it takes up a lot of your daily thoughts, it can bring you down.
A good coping mechanism I use is to distract myself whenever I start worrying about grades. When you’re worrying, it can be tempted to do absolutely nothing productive and just sit alone with your thoughts. This can be beneficial for some, but for me, I make myself productive on something else- whether that be by going to the gym, reading, or tidying my room.
If I receive a ‘bad’ grade, because of my fear of doing badly, it often causes a lot of self-doubt. Instead of looking at the bigger picture and focusing on what I did well, I immediately focus on the mistakes I made. This usually makes me worried about future assignments, in case they receive similar grades.
To get out of the vicious cycle of self-doubt, it is essential to tell yourself that one bad grade does not equal a bad overall mark. Also, learn from mistakes! If they’re something you can easily amend for future work, then be thankful that it’s been picked up on at this stage! One negative comment does not question your ability as a student, remember that!
So, I hope that if you could relate to any of these points that you may now have a few tactics for tackling your worries! Remember, you’re not alone in the process, and there is always extra help available. You can find out more about this by following the link: https://warwick.ac.uk/services/supportservices/