Culture often associates success with perfection. Those who have the perfect body, the perfect 4.0, the perfect group of steadfast friends and the perfect life are happy, right? It’s not true, but society always reinforces it. In college, this is especially true. Students are expected to maintain the delicate equilibrium between school, life, friends and taking care of themselves. It is what employers look for, and as a result, we are constantly trying to reach this golden standard.

The issue with this image is its lack of humanity and vulnerability. It is simply impossible to achieve. College forces us to put on a mask. Go to practice, go to class, do your homework. Blend in, act like everything’s OK when you are unraveling. It is dangerous to open yourself up, to be vulnerable. Exposing yourself to the elements of danger and the unknown is frightening. There is no way to know how people will react when you say that you cannot go eat ice cream because of your eating disorder, that your anxiety kept you up all night or that your depression pushes you to isolate. These mental illnesses are chronic: Recovery from them is a process, one that takes a long time. Healing cannot be rushed. Yet we pretend — we put on masks to hide our weaknesses. As a result, we avoid seeking help and only become sicker.

The pressure self-imposed by students, and also that from parents and professors, add to this challenge of being perfect. So what if you only got four hours of sleep? At least you completed that lab report. The failure to do so could result in a lower grade, lack of understanding or countless other atrocities. We are pushed to perform at 110 percent all the time, but it is not possible. We are all facing a unique challenge: a conglomeration of mental health struggles, feeling overwhelmed, being scared, unsure about our futures.

Perhaps this pressure is a factor in why so many students are ill. It is not our faults that we are crippled with anxiety and depression from such a demanding workload and life. It is understandable. I’m not begging off of the amount of work that college requires, but it is essential to remember that your own health comes first. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for an extension. It is not a sign of laziness to take a day off of homework in order to take care of yourself instead. It is not a sign of apathy to only take 12 credits. Fighting back against the pressure-imposing and perfection-seeking culture is key to establishing this knowledge.

Another way to break apart the ideal of perfectionism is through vulnerability. No matter who puts up the facade of having everything under control, I promise that no one does. It is OK not to be OK, to be unhealthy and to take a step back. Exposing yourself in this manner is commendable, not weak. Taking this positive step will help the lives of yourself and those around you. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, states, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness.” Reveal just a glimpse of yourself, and see what happens. Some people will not understand your struggles at all, but there are some who will care deeply.

Kara Bilello is freshman double-majoring in English and Spanish.