We are the puppets of societal expectations and perfectionism.  

We have all been the victims of social influence in some way or another, whether we know it or not. Of course, some forms are imperative to having a good life and bettering ourselves, but what about the ones that lead to destruction? 

Dear societal expectations, I’ve heard you’ve been trying to control our lives. Go to school, get the grades. Have a good career, make something of yourself. Researchers have reported evidence that perfectionism is rising among students. From day one our precious lives are put into the cold hands of these expectations. Our lives are under societal control and anticipate judgement, even when we are the doctors and lawyers everyone pressured us to become. It’s the same old routine. 

Why do we give so much life to the word “perfect”? Why do we allow it to dictate so many of our actions? Perfect grades, perfect career, perfect appearance. As a perfectionist, I understand the severity of pressure. When taking exams in the past, I have crumbled under the pressure of my own expectations, leading me to do worse than I would have otherwise. We give so much life to this word, when it is ultimately meaningless. An often-unattainable standard that we hold ourselves to.  

Studies show that 3 in 10 teenagers have issues with perfectionism.

Perfection is this glamourised addiction, the highs of performing well feel great. Everybody wants it. As the withdrawal symptoms of not doing as well at something hit, we are left disillusioned. The walls of our confidence come crashing down and our self-esteem is broken, and we are left to bathe in a lack of satisfaction, unable to realise that we cannot achieve “perfection” consistently.  

It has been proven that perfectionists are unable to relax and believe the only way of receiving validation is through being perfect.  

We are like addicts that must always have the next greatest thing to achieve acceptance. Once you change one thing about yourself due to societal pressure, you cannot stop. We become hungrier and hungrier for the changes we could make to ourselves, from the soles of our shoes to every strand of hair on our heads. We associate perfection with those models we see on nothing but glossy pages of photoshop, not realising that what is expected of us isn’t always possible. 

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

A new data reveal from The Society of Plastic Surgeons suggests that cosmetic surgery is on the rise. A proportion of this has been influenced by social media. We are pushed to unhealthy extremes. There is an incessant comparison between ourselves, each other and what we see both online and in the outside world. Statistically, seeing airbrushed and photoshopped images on social media raises insecurity in people, the most impressionable being young people. 57% of respondents to a 2018 Princes’ Trust survey, aged 16-25, agreed that ‘social media creates an overwhelming pressure to succeed.’

Keeping your standards high is a great quality, but you cannot let it restrict your individuality. To ignore your individuality is to allow societal expectations to profit. Passion, ambition, drive: people throw it all away, let it fade out, wither and die, just to fulfil the goal of pleasing others. It is time to be our own people with our own passions, appearances and opinions- not carbon copies and cookie cutters. What makes the world interesting is diversity, be it through background, opinion, appearance, religion. Are you living, or are you just existing to please others? 

Individuality matters. Look perfect, act perfect, be perfect; these expectations fundamentally equate to nothing. 


Sarah Hayward is a sixth form student.