Six feels you get at uni when you’re an anxious perfectionist

June 02, 2017
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Perfectionism and anxiety are frequently linked, with one affliction often reinforcing the other. Symptoms can include obsessiveness, insomnia and burning sacrifices to the graven image of Hermione Granger.

Take it from a geek who knows. Natalie Portman admitted to feeling “overwhelmed” during her own university years while giving a commencement speech to Harvard graduates in 2015.

“I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress,” she said.

Minus the actress bit, I’ve felt much that way myself in various lecture halls and study sessions throughout university. Only, unfortunately for my classmates, I did open my mouth.

Here are six feels anxious perfectionists like old Natalie and I go through on the daily.

You can’t write a poorly worded essay if you’re watching Netflix

It’s a common misconception that perfectionists would rather die than miss a deadline. Sometimes, producing substandard work is a more terrifying prospect than producing no work at all.

Studies have shown perfectionism is often accompanied by a fear of failure and – that scourge of the student experience – procrastination.

So, you write a sentence, but delete it because it’s not amazing and will give birth to a non-amazing essay. Repeat a dozen times, then go watch Kimmy Schmidt because you’re a crap student who writes crap essays and nobody loves you.

Study break? Use it to have an existential crisis between lectures!

You know you’re an anxious perfectionist when the very fact that you’re stressed causes you to question your suitability for adult life.

Surely a proper adult wouldn’t need a break? They’d probably be studying right now! Better get those books out.

You’ve done the readings, but you still can’t speak up in class

What’s the point in saying something if it isn’t the cleverest thing anyone’s ever heard? Better think this through.

But by the time you’ve constructed your answer, humorous anecdote included, the class has already moved on to the next chapter.

You’re always tired – or sick

Any moment you spend not being furiously productive is a moment wasted. Luxuries like “relaxation” and “self-care” will just have to wait until you’ve achieved more than any human before you.

So what if you’ve had more cups of coffee than hours of sleep? There are soldiers in, like, Afghanistan or something who would probably love some sleep right now. Push through, maggot!

Got a C grade? Better drop out

You take your results way too personally, as if every test were a Magic Eight Ball revealing your future.

Credit? Pass? All signs point to Centrelink.

You secretly miss those high school days

Remember when you got an A+ on every test and all your teachers were convinced you were the next Prime Minister? Yeah, so does Natalie.

In her commencement speech, the actress recounts listening in despair as her prep-school educated classmates bragged about the workload at Harvard being “easy” compared to high school. Natalie, meanwhile, struggled just to stay afloat.

You might be a small fish in a huge-ass swamp now, but that doesn’t make you an impostor.

“You are here for a reason,” Portman reminds us. She’s right.

Joel Svensson

Business major, journalism minor and freelance writer, Joel pretends to be clever at La Trobe University.

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