Perfection Ideals Killer for Women

28 Oct
Apr 13, 2010 Samreen Khan 


The pursuit of perfection is costing women their social, physical and emotional health.

Qitarah Jafaar* roams around the house for hours without any purpose. She has to be told to sit down and rest for a while. For Qitarah, every day is the same as the other and every hour is the same as the last. Change, time and space have ceased in meaning for her.

Yet, this is a woman who once had an active life. From performing the household chores to entertaining the relatives and guests, she had a “perfect” life. Unfortunately, this “perfect” life came at the expense of both her physical and mental health. Qitarah paid a heavy price for being a “superwoman,” for it consumed her identity and character.

The story above provides a glaring insight of how the pursuit of perfection by women has become deadly for their health and survival. Women, regardless of color, creed, caste, religion or nationality, are trying to fit themselves in a “perfection” mould that is costing their lives.
The Concept of Perfection

Perfection for women has existed for a decade. In earlier times, when a woman’s role was limited to domestic chores, it was expected of a woman to be a “perfect” wife, mother, daughter and one who socializes well according to the norms of the society. A woman adhering to all the norms was picture perfect . Following these norms was essential to a successful life for a woman, even, if it meant suppressing views, personality and feelings.

This ideal evolved with time and intensified in its nature fueled by various factors.

Media plays the biggest role in creating the “perfect woman” perception. Celebrities are heavily portrayed as individuals who are great companions, friends, mothers and workers. Models with flawless looks, body and weight and celebrities losing weight are publicized profoundly. Magazines continuously weight on their transformations, figures and looks intensifying the pressure of being an ideal.

The perception that “women can do everything” evolved into “superwoman” concept. A woman that can earn, can take care of family and house chores and can socialize came to be known as successful and ideal in every way. Ironically, a woman has to go beyond her capabilities and strengths, that is, to extremes, to prove her worth in every sphere.
Outcomes of Pursuing Perfection

The results of pursuing perfection are frightening. It is well-documented that women are more prone to depression than men. Mule contends that “society’s pressure on achieving stereotypical roles and expectations of perfection everyday” is pushing more women in the depression circle (2009, Mar 2010).

The above has been backed by a study published in the “Annals of Plastic Surgery.” It revealed that “women that undergo cosmetic breast implants; have threefold increase in suicide and in deaths related to alcohol or substance abuse” (2007, Mar 2010). It is contended that most women that undergo such surgeries might have underlying psychological disorder increasing the probability of death. Thus, it is recommended that women must be referred to psychological analysis to determine their emotional stability.

The quest to look perfectly beautiful has led to an alarming rate of young girls and women being treated for eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. The death of model Ana Carolina Reston is an example of perfection consuming women. Worse, the pattern is not limited to the developed world, but, is also increasing in the developing world. The figures at best remain sketchy.

A report by MSNBC recently stated that “almost six percent of American women, that’s 7.5 million adult women, report using prescription medicines for boost of energy, a dose of calm or other non-medical reasons” (Feb 2010, Mar 2010). And the major reason cited for this was the “superwoman syndrome” that lead to use of painkillers and stimulants to achieve a perfect life.

A woman’s fate is not to perish. It should be like nature which re-generates and blooms to give life its true meaning. Women should not be superwomen for superwomen are neither women nor human beings.

(* The name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual)


Martin. Courtney (2007) ‘The Un-Pretty Perfect Girl’ Accessed on 1 April 2010

Mule, Christina M (2009) ‘Why Women are more Susceptible to Depression: An Explanation for Gender Differences’ Research Paper, Rochester Institute of Technology, Accessed on 4 April 2010

MSNBC report (2010) ‘Superwomen Syndrome Fuels Pill-Popping’ Accessed on 5 April 2010

Phillips, Tom (2007) ‘Everyone knew she was ill. The Other Girls, The Model Agencies…Don’t Believe it When They Say They Didn’t’ , The Observer, Guardian, Accessed on 3 April 2010

Singer, Natasha (2007) ‘Study Suggests that a Need for Physical Perfection may Reveal Emotional Flaws’ New York Times, Accessed on 4 April 2010


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