The Cherry on Top

Nina Taleb-Bendiab (’23) reflects on how a pervasive attitude of perfectionism impacts student learning & writing. “It is not sustainable for our motives to solely be based on outcomes. We need to learn how to accept failures as opportunities and realize that perfection doesn’t automatically equate to extreme success.”

Most people know the saying “the cherry on top”. Which refers to that one detail or factor that makes something already good, better or maybe even perfect. While I do like a good cherry on my ice cream, the figurative meaning of this phrase is overrated. 

Now why would I think that? First off, the implication that one defining thing can make something perfect is unrealistic. Secondly, this phrase gives false notions that perfection exists. There are many misconceptions about perfectionism and not enough knowledge on why it can be harmful. The concept of always trying to improve isn’t a bad thing; but, the motive behind perfectionism is. Learning that improvement is only good for some sort of successful outcome is what creates this negative outlook. A lot of the time kids are exposed to this mindset from a young age. Especially with this generation, the pressure of getting a perfect SAT score, 5 on an AP exam, 4.0 gpa, etc. has become extremely harmful. Many think that pushing someone to always strive for a desired outcome is the path to success. In reality, it’s teaching people to always yearn for some intangible product and frequently leaving people with a feeling of dissatisfaction, even if so much effort has been put into their work.

I find that perfectionism is highly prevalent in high schoolers and more specifically when they are writing. I personally have struggled with it for a lot of my life. With college essays, AP classes and more advanced writing pieces there is this pressure looming over people making them extra critical and anxious about their work. After researching on the topic of perfectionism in writing I came across an article from the NIH which looked at the science behind a growth mindset. In a study. children were tested through a game where they were incentivized based on effort and persistence. Results indicated that the children ended up doing better at the game when they started at a low performance and worked their way up to mastery.

Most people have become familiarized with the term “growth mindset” and have noted it as a good thing. But going even deeper, studies have shown how important learning to strive for improvement instead of perfection is.

In today’s day and age we live in a world where everyone is always striving for perfection. It’s time we rid ourselves of that negative mindset and stop putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves. It is not sustainable for our motives to solely be based on outcomes. We need to learn how to accept failures as opportunities and realize that perfection doesn’t automatically equate to extreme success. To be successful it requires growth: personal, social, academic, etc.

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