Perfection. Yes, It’s a Real Problem.


You don’t have to be “her.”  

You don’t have to wear makeup, dress up to be on social media or learn a dance for TikTok. You are everything you need to be. But that is hard to remember when we spend so much time worrying about how we look and comparing ourselves to others. 

It is also an issue for students at East Rock Community & Cultural Studies Magnet School. About one-third of students say they do not feel “strong” or “powerful,” according to the East Rock Record Spring 2020 Survey. 

“A lot of people feel that they aren’t good enough or that they are not smart enough,” said Rachel Matz, a registered nurse in adolescent psychiatry at the Yale-New Haven Hospital. She told East Rock Record reporters that it is especially hard for girls, who tend to focus on other people’s ideas of beauty.  

Girls try very hard to fit into a frame that was built by society, she said.  

Social media doesn’t help, said Monica Abbott, social and emotional learning coach for New Haven Public Schools.  

“Anything you can post and comment on is something that people can use to feel bad about themselves,” said Ms. Abbott. “Now you have 24/7 access to people not saying nice things and changing the way people think about themselves.”  

Think about the people who interact with you and value you for things outside of how you look.”

These standards impact how we perceive ourselves and others. Although she doesn’t think that there is “any one way to be pretty,” Mackenzie Hawkins, an undergraduate at Yale University, said that some people have an easier time in life because they fit the world’s conceptions of beauty. She said that “it’s important to be honest about the standards we face.”  

Even if you try to fight the pressure to be perfect, you also have to deal with other people’s ideas of perfection. That can make it harder to accept yourself for who you are.  

Challenging the “perfection problem” is a big job. But you can take steps to chip away at these troubled beauty standards. Ms. Hawkins urged students to “think about the people who interact with you and value you for things outside of how you look.” Ms. Abbot said it can help “to go to friends or trusted adults” when you are feeling down. Finally, Ms. Matz suggested keeping a mantra that you say over and over to yourself to remember your beauty, intellect and strength.  

It may be easier to find a mantra than you think. When we asked several sixth grade girls at East Rock School, including Kamiyah Marsh and Valentina Prada, if it was important to be beautiful, they had this to say: “Us girls are beautiful and strong no matter what we think of ourselves!”  

They added a reminder that might be good for everyone to keep in mind, that, you don’t have to be perfect for anybody but yourself.” You are everything you need to be. 

Edited by Maya Weldon-Lagrimas.