Growing up we are constantly told to be our best. Go above and beyond expectations. Make people think we are flawless. Be seamless in our actions and appearance. We conform because it’s not just our family and friends pressuring us but society as a whole. The need to be perfect surrounds us.
Perfection means to be of an ideal type in your attitude, diet, knowledge and appearance. From day one, until our last breath, our lives are under pressure.
Sometimes, we cannot help our feelings; it’s human nature. Yet, we are told to be confident while smiling, to show everyone our lives are together. Those smiles are expected to have perfectly straight and bleached-white teeth. Our pearly whites cannot be ruined so we are on a diet, which prevents becoming thick in any way. Simultaneously we are expected to make correct decisions and show superior intelligence.
Society expects us to be perfect but how is it possible to be born flawless? The shocking answer… it’s not! We are the human species. Perfection is not attainable.
School is a primary example of the extent of societal perfectionism expectation. Some students will go to any length to earn a 100 percent on tests even if it means cheating. There is also the pressure to get into the ‘right’ college. The ACT, a common college entrance exam that determines scholarships and school selection, forbids cheating in any way. In 2011, more than 50 students were involved in a cheating scandal in Nassau County, N.Y. Students were found to either have paid another student to take the ACT or SAT for them, or impersonated someone else and took the test for that person.
This led to the arrest of 20 teenagers, as well as a new registration policy for college entrance exams that includes uploading a photo of the test taker. Actions like those of the New York students showcase societal pressures to be perfect. One test score can erase a lifetime’s work. Without the perfect test score, many students believe their futures are unobtainable.
Perfectionism pressure does not end in the classroom. According to plasticsurgery.org, 14.6 million cosmetic surgeries were performed last year. Perfectionism pressure is causing people to inject fake materials into their bodies. Collagen is used in lip augmentation and silicone is commonly used for face, breast, bicep, calve and buttock enhancements. Why be yourself, when you can be fake? We are supposed to be comprised of organs and tissue not collagen and silicone.
For eight years, Nip/Tuck, a popular reality TV show, featured episodes about plastic surgery procedures. Show creator, Ryan Murphy, claimed that all medical cases featured on the show were based on true stories. Nip/Tuck earned 45 award nominations, winning an Emmy and Golden Globe Award. With such a likeable image, the socially accepted trend in plastic surgery continues to grow. Marie Roubidoux, freshman broadcast journalism major, is one among many that feel the perfectionism pressure.
“Oh, everything about me used to be fake,” Roubidoux said.
In addition to her tanning bed induced tan, she loves makeup to cover flaws and enhance facial features. False eyelashes were once a ‘must have’ in her daily routine. In sixth grade she began dying her hair, going to the salon every six to eight weeks for highlights. Roubidoux has died her hair for so long that she does not remember her natural hair color. This is one of the many steps Roubidoux takes to achieve a flawless image.
“I don’t like being pale, because it shows all of my imperfections,” Roubidoux said. “When you are tan you just have a glow, your smile is brighter and you carry yourself better. I’m more confident when I am tan.”
Like many, Roubidoux uses tanning salons. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than 1 million Americans tan in salons daily. Tanning is commonly associated with skin cancer and people are putting health at risk just to get the bronze glow. It is easy to associate perfectionism with women but men too have the same demand.
“I feel the pressure from several different things like friends and advertisements,” Nathan Blake, freshman business major, said. “It’s not really something I think about though, it is kind of subconscious.”
Following the social norms, Blake routinely dresses nice and works out. Brand named, expensive clothing are essential to be ‘normal’ in today’s society. Image is so integrated in today’s society that some people feel pressure without even realizing it.
“I don’t worry about being perfect, because personally I think that would be selfish of me,” Kaycee Nail, junior, women and gender studies and political communication major said. “If I was thinking about being perfect, I would be putting more focus on myself and the image I am portraying rather than what I am doing for my students and my residents.”
As the Youth Futures Coordinator for Latino Youth Futures program, Nail sees struggles first-generation, low-income Latin students face to comply with American standards. Students work hard to prove themselves despite negative society stigmas. Not only do Latino students have pressure to fit in with American culture, they have to strive to be a model representation of their background.
The fact that people go the lengths they do just to become socially acceptable trying to achieve the label of “perfect” sickens me. The stress we put in our lives to fulfill social requirements cannot be healthy. We all subconsciously fall into the trap of creating our perfect-selves.
I hope that we can all love our true selves. Everyone is individually created to be someone unique as our flaws distinguish us from one another. I have come to accept and love who I am, faults and all. We are all perfectly imperfect.