Colleges around the country are experiencing an increasing problem with the mental health of their students. The number of students seeking counseling while in college has increased over the years. In fact, a study by The American College Health Association found that the majority of students had experienced “overwhelming anxiety”. The study also showed that 40 percent of college students admitted they had experienced such high levels of anxiety in the prior year that it was difficult to function. Those are alarming statistics. It’s important to pinpoint where this increase in mental health challenges is coming from. While there are several different reasons one of them is the struggle with perfectionism.
What is perfectionism?
According to Google, the definition of perfectionism is, “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection”. In college, this could be striving for perfect grades, maintaining the perfect social life, always looking the part, and participating in the right extracurriculars to build out your resume.
Why is perfectionism a bad thing?
Just reading over what perfectionism would look like for a college is enough to overwhelm some people. Entering college is a whole new world for students. It comes with new freedom and responsibilities that many students have never experienced. When students are living away from home and their family, they are without the support system that they have always relied on.
Many students were able to get away with striving to be perfect in high school and some were even able to excel at it. But the new situation and increased level of workload ends up being too much to maintain the standard in college, and rightly so. Yet, it doesn’t stop students from pursuing it even though it takes a toll on their mental health.
Perfectionism sets unrealistic expectations
Perfection is a goal that no student, or person for that matter, can achieve. That means when you strive for perfection you are ultimately setting yourself up for failure. Striving for this unrealistic expectation leads to anxiety, shame, and stress as you work to accomplish something that just isn’t possible. For some students this leads to other health and wellness problems like substance abuse, eating disorders, and depression.
Perfectionism causes procrastination
Knowing that you are setting out to accomplish something that isn’t realistic causes procrastination. The goal of doing something to perfection is overwhelming. It causes students to put off getting started on projects because they are afraid they won’t be able to achieve their desired outcome. But, this causes additional problems because procrastinating only adds to the stress that you feel. It also causes you to stay up late trying to complete assignments or study because you delayed in getting started when you should have.