About ten minutes ago I finished reading a book by Ellen Hopkins entitled “Perfect”. At the back of the book there are pages upon pages of reflection questions and discussion points. One such reflection question asks “is the need for perfection self-imposed or is it caused by external forces”?
As a graduate of a Communication undergraduate program I’ve spent 4 years of my life critically reflecting on the impact of media outlets on the development of morals, self-image, and various other aspects of the human psyche.
In my opinion, the need for perfection begins as something external, but over time it morphs into something inherent within ourselves. In other words, I believe that the external becomes internal; therefore, the answer to the question is not as cut and dry as some might suggest.
When we are born, we begin learning from our environments even as tiny infants. Throughout our young lives we learn from our parents/guardians, siblings, and peers, but we also learn from other sources such as television, books, and school. Essentially, we are socialized by external forces. These external factors contribute to the development of who we are as people. This has been extensively researched and demonstrated time and time again for decades.
It is important to note that internal factors such as genetics can predispose us to be more susceptible to perfectionistic qualities; however, without being socialized to pursue perfection, these genetic predispositions would not be triggered. As a result, I believe that perfection is a learned habit or behavior. Seeking perfection is something that is ingrained in the minds of children from even the earliest years of life.
We are taught that we should strive to be the best in school, sports, and many other aspects of life. Eventually, children learn that they must be the best that they can be at all times…or else. The threat of not being good enough is introduced to children at a young age, so it makes sense that over time we would learn to self-impose perfection on ourselves.
Essentially, what I’m trying to say is that we are socialized by external factors; everything that is internal is a direct result of something that was at one time external. So while perfection may become something that we impose upon ourselves later in life, it starts as something that we are socialized to attain, even if it is impossible to do so.
What are your thoughts on this? Have any of you read “Perfect”? If not, I would recommend reading it!