When high standards become unrelenting, they can lead to perfectionism and to behaviors that actually get in the way of achieving your goals and enjoying your Harvard journey.
Unrelenting Standards in High Achieving Students
Perfectionism is the over-application of high standards related to excellence. In today’s society, there are many misconceptions about perfectionism and its relationship with excellence, many of which you may have encountered on your journey to Harvard. You might have been rewarded by parents and teachers, for instance, for setting extremely high standards for yourself and working relentlessly to achieve them, even at the expense of your wellbeing. This external reinforcement of unrealistic standards of perfection, although often well-intentioned (they want you to do well and achieve great things!), can easily translate into an unhealthy obsession with achievement that carries over to college.
At Harvard, however, the tough demands of coursework and high level of achievement amongst your peers can often mean that the strategies that made you successful in high school are no longer sustainable. The very relentlessness of perfectionism that once led to praise can cause students to miss deadlines, obsess over minute details of assignments, and sacrifice their wellness. Perfectionists often struggle to moderate their behaviors not because they enjoy the feeling of struggling to meet high standards, but because they believe that they must continue to be perfect to be successful and accepted by others. In fact, the opposite is often true: students who learn to develop realistic (not low!) standards for themselves often see the quality of their work and relationships improve.