I'm posting my oratory here. Because I worked on it for 2 weeks, and I'm really proud of it. So read it, or not. But its long. REALLY long. And sounds way better when I read it out loud, instead of on paper ;)
When I was nine, I went on a mission. My bedroom was going to be perfect. That’s right, I, the messiest person in Mrs. Windler’s third grade class was on a mission to make my room perfect. I spent hours alphabetizing my books, placing my dolls in just the right spot, and organizing my clothes into what my friend aptly called "Colorbetical Order." Once I finally had my room exactly how I wanted it, the trouble started. No one was allowed inside, for fear they might mess it up. I slept on top of my blankets, so I wouldn’t ruin my pillow design. That’s when I realized, my room was perfect, but I couldn’t do anything. What was the point of perfection, if it doesn’t work?
Webster’s Dictionary defines perfectionism as a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable. Juggling school, work, and friends is hard enough, but throw in the need to do it all perfectly and the stress is just too much. Within this speech I’m going to tell you reasons for perfectionism, explain why being perfect isn’t all its cracked up to be, and tell you what you can do to stop everyone’s need for perfection.
The perfect body has always been a goal for millions of men and women. People go to great lengths to achieve this so-called ‘perfect body.’ Gym memberships, diets and even going under the knife, just to be perfect. According to James Runyan, a diet and eating disorder specialist, we see more than 3,000 advertisements a day telling us how we should look. And the image you see, the one many idealize, isn’t even real. Lighting, air brushing, and photoshopping runs rampant in the media. It seems the image everyone wants to become isn’t even real these days. But many people are still chasing the dream of perfection.
My parents have always pushed me to get As. And don’t get me wrong, without them forcing me to do my homework, I don’t know where I’d be. But whatever happened to C being average? Nowadays, receiving anything less than an A is like punishing a teen. Everywhere the world is telling us to be perfect, or we’ll fail. We won’t get into college if we don’t get A’s. No one will hire you if you get a C in Algebra. Whatever happened to "You did your best," or "Nice try, you’ll get ‘em next time"? They seem to have been replaced with "You could have done better."
Now, with all this stress to do good in school, and to be pretty, you’d think we’d be able to just relax and be ourselves around our friends. But most of the time, this is hardly the case. People seem to be wondering more, "How is this person going to help me?" No one just wants to be friends. People are so busy trying to do get ahead in life, they don’t have time to actually live. Its like the story about Franklin D. Roosevelt. He hated the White House receptions because he thought people were too busy trying to get on his good side that they didn’t listen to him. So, at an international reception, as he shook hands with all of the guests he smiled and said, "I’m fine. I stabbed my grandmother to death this morning. And how are you?" Each guest answered nearly the same way, "Glad to hear that, Mr. President. Thank you so much for inviting me!" Finally one minor official turned to him and responded, "Well, I’m certain she had it coming." People were so busy trying to become the President’s friend, and they didn’t listen to anything he had to say. More times than we’d like to admit, we use people so we can wiggle our way into the perfect situations for life.
Perfection takes way too much time. Making sure everything is the way it should be, and nothing goes wrong is time consuming. Perfection often leads to procrastination. People don’t want to start something unless they know it will turn out exactly how they want it too. Perfection leads to many other things as well, from grade inflation, to death!
According to a UCLA survey, 47.5% of college freshmen had an A average in highschool. Last year, in a school in New Jersey, a straight B average would land you at number 194 in a class of 225. When I hear these numbers, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘Oh, America’s teens must be getting smarter." But our test scores seem to suggest the opposite. In 1976 the average verbal score on the SAT was a 514. In 2002 the average score dropped to 506. Not exactly the improvement the grades suggest, is it? The same can be shown with the math scores. In 1976 the average was 516, and in 2002 it dropped to 507. If America isn’t getting smarter, then what’s happening? America’s teachers are inflating the grades.
A’s were once a much higher goal than they are now. Instead of a reward for going above and beyond the requirements, A’s are structured in exact categories to follow, and simple instructions need to be meet in order to achieve the grade. This had made getting into college much more complicated than just getting the grade. Since so many students are getting straight A’s these days, students must do much more than just that. Volunteer hours, clubs and activities are now looked at, since so many students seem to be able to get that much sought after A+.
With the pressure to have the perfect body, many people take it too far. Girls believe they won’t be attractive or popular unless that are skinny and beautiful. 10 million people in America have eating disorders. One in ten people will struggle with their weight. That’s right, at least two people in the classroom with have some form of an eating disorder, sometime in their life. And its not just girls. Of those ten million. At least one million of them our boys. There are many reasons for a person to develop an eating disorder. Doctors have attributed it to family abuse, stress, and an extreme fear of weight gain. What is one of the most common reasons someone will have an eating disorder? A need for their body to be perfect.
Many people hurt themselves daily in the fight for their body to become perfect. Trying to be perfect often leads to being depressed when things don’t turn out they way you would like them to. Many depressed people turn toward self- mutilation.
Self-mutilation, or cutting, is the act of hurting yourself to release pain or stress. One percent of America’s population has been reported as self-injure-ers. Doctors believe this number is much higher than that, because many teens who cut refuse to come forward and receive help. People who cut go to great lengths to hide it. Many people begin to cut after things don’t go the way they thought they would. When things don’t go.. Perfectly.
Perfection is a down-right epidemic here in America. Hopefully what I’ve told you here today will help you toe realize, things don’t always go the way you want them to. And that’s okay.
My suggestion on how to stop this evil circle of Perfection? Do something spontaneously. Jump in the pool with your clothes on, throw your papers into the air, even though you’ll just have to pick them up later. Do something just because it seems like a good idea at the time. Not everything in life has to be perfect. When I was nine years old, I realized something about perfection. I realized that perfection doesn’t really exist.