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The Value of Striving for Perfection: Essay on The Problems with Perfectionism

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The year is 2022, and perfection has yet to be accomplished. People are perfectionists and try to accomplish everything perfectly, whether it’s looking perfect, completing each assignment flawlessly, or simply having high standards. Yet when people attempt to be perfect, they lose value in themselves, thus making perfectionism not worth the pain. In the short story, The Birth-Mark by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author presents a theme of how being perfect is not perfect as it may cause problems. In today’s world, many people are striving for perfection, and this essay analyzes what can happen to people if they continue on the path to perfectionism.

Wanting to be a perfectionist is wrong for many reasons; for one, a single negative comment can have an impact on a person. In the short story The Birth-Mark, Hawthorne presents an example: “‘Have you ever considered that the mark upon your cheek might be removed?’ ‘No,’ she said smiling. But seeing the seriousness of his question, she said, ‘The mark has so often been called a charm that I was simple enough to imagine it might be so.’‘On another face, it might,’”. The woman in the story has received positive compliments from others when referring to the mark on her face, so she thought the mark was perfect. Now, the man in the story breaks the cycle of positive compliments when he says that the mark does not go well with her face. Hearing the negative comment from the man makes the woman want to remove the mark at any cost to restore her image of perfection. The woman later in the story tells the man, “‘If there be the remotest possibility of it,’ continued Georgiana, ‘let the attempt be made, at whatever risk. The danger is nothing to me; for life-while, this hateful mark makes me the object of your horror and disgust-life is a burthen which I would fling down with joy’. The woman whose name is Georgiana does not care about the risks that are present if she were to remove the mark. Because Georgiana wants to be perfect, she is willing to degrade herself from a human being to a test subject so that she will be flawless all over.

Being a perfectionist can cause a drain on someone’s mental and emotional health. The story mentions numerous times how Georgiana wants to get rid of the mark so that she can be the perfect ideal woman for her husband. Perfectionists overwork themselves because they have a fear of failing. GoodTherapy, a website to help people with mental problems and to provide people with therapist contacts asserts that people become perfectionists because of, “Frequent fear of disapproval from others or feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. Some parents may encourage their children to succeed in every area or push perfection on them to an extent that can be considered abusive. They may have trouble accepting a good outcome as well if it’s not perfect.” People become a perfectionist like Georgiana because they are worried about failure from acceptance. Perfectionists cannot bring themselves to accept their flaws, which can cause problems. In the book, Georgiana does not accept the mark on her face as unique; instead, she considers it to be hideous. GoodTherapy also states that being a perfectionist is bad because it can also affect a person’s health. “Perfectionism…can lead to self-defeating thoughts or behaviors that make it harder to achieve goals. It may also cause stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.” being a perfectionist seems like it causes more harm than good. Over various attempts of trying to be perfect, Georgiana ends up stressed because the mark could not come off. By trying to accomplish perfection people end up having mental problems and not being able to achieve the goals that they set. By not accepting failure, they instead have to face more dangerous problems, such as depression.

A perfectionist can sometimes be very critical of others. Georgiana was the heroine of this novel. Although her birthmark was the physical imperfection she latched onto, the thing that made her most disgusted with herself is the fact that her husband found her unloveable. Even so, she knew perfectionism could never be achieved. She was also aware that her husband would never be satisfied even if he was successful in removing the birthmark in a nonfatal way when she says that ‘With her whole spirit she prayed that, for a single moment, she might satisfy his highest and deepest conception. Longer than one moment she well knew it could not be; for his spirit was ever on the march, ever-ascending . . . requiring something that was beyond the scope of the instant before. In the moments before her death, she tries to make Aylmer understand that her birthmark did not make her imperfect to him, it was his own flawed standards that made her ugly in his eyes. She recognizes that she was beautiful all along, and tells him not to feel bad about renouncing “the best the earth could offer”. Normal people who are not perfectionists embrace their flaws. Everyone is different and people just have to embrace that no one can be perfect. As a scientist, Aylmer had performed a formula for Georgiana to remove the mark, and Aylmer said, “‘The concoction of the draught has been perfect,’ said he, in answer to Georgiana’s look. ‘Unless all my science has deceived me, it cannot fail’”. Wanting to be perfect has consequences. Aylmer was about to find out just what those consequences are. After Georgiana took the elixir from the Aylmer and drank from it, something happened to her. What happened to Georgiana was, “As the last crimson tint of the birth-mark-that sole token of human imperfection-faded from her cheek, the parting breath of the now perfect woman passed into the atmosphere, and her soul, lingering a moment near her husband, took its heavenward flight”. Georgiana had died in an attempt to be flawless. Focusing most of his attempt to free Georgiana from the mark, Aylmer did not have a chance to cherish her. Aylmer had said the elixir was “perfect” The story gives an example to show that in life no one can be perfect, no matter how hard a person tries.

Being a perfectionist causes harm to one’s self because of the many problems that come with the association. It’s better to accept and embrace the mistakes people have. When a person is not a perfectionist he/she can accept failure and move on to a new thing. Raychelle Cassada, a licensed professional counselor wrote an article for Psychology Today, about ways for a person to embrace their imperfections. One of the ways was acceptance is, “Accept who you are… With every mistake we learn, we grow and we understand a little more about life. Don’t let the embarrassment of screwing up rob you from finding inner peace and accepting who you are — mess-ups and all.” People should be accepting of themselves and learn to fail once and a while because when they get back up they will be stronger people. A person cannot be perfect all the time. Living in today’s world, it’s a given that people are going to fail from time to time. Striving for perfection will only cause harm. Cassada then leaves another note for the readers. Cassada tells the readers to, “Don’t Surrender to Perfectionism. Your beauty lies in your imperfection. You are a work of art, a true magnum opus. Don’t surrender to the erroneous internal messages that tell you that you’re not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, worthy enough… Those lies will steal away your joy of living.” It is because of their imperfections that people seek perfection. Being a perfectionist is not healthy. By embracing their mistakes people will be able to live a healthier and happier life because they are now able to see that everyone makes mistakes, and is not perfect, so they do not have to be perfect either.

As seen from the essay, striving for perfection may cause harm. Perfectionists work too much and end up having problems such as anxiety, depression, and mental health issues. Perfectionists also worry too much about what others think of them. Being a perfectionist means that there is no room for any mistakes, which can cause a person to have high-stress levels because they will not want to fail. People should embrace their faults; after all, people grow stronger than they would if they were perfect. By striving for perfection people lose sight in who they are and try to focus on becoming perfect instead of their imperfections.

Works Cited

  1. Cassada, Raychelle. “Perfectly Imperfect.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 25 July 2018, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/teen-angst/201807/perfectly-imperfect.
  2. “Get Help.” GoodTherapy, 3 Aug. 2018, www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/perfectionism.
  3. Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Birth-Mark” The Norton Introduction to Literature 13th Edition. W. W. Norton Company Inc., 2018

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Striving for Perfection: Problems with Perfectionism. (2022, May 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/striving-for-perfection-problems-with-perfectionism/
“Striving for Perfection: Problems with Perfectionism.” GradesFixer, 17 May 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/striving-for-perfection-problems-with-perfectionism/
Striving for Perfection: Problems with Perfectionism. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/striving-for-perfection-problems-with-perfectionism/> [Accessed 11 Aug. 2022].
Striving for Perfection: Problems with Perfectionism [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 May 17 [cited 2022 Aug 11]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/striving-for-perfection-problems-with-perfectionism/
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