The initiative was inspired by Professor Roz Shafran who visited to give the annual Ada Benson lecture on 'Perfectionism and self-esteem: two sides of the same coin?' Professor Shafran discussed a girl having high standards and and a girl's self-esteem being disproportionately dependent on striving and achievement. In her lecture Shafran noted that aiming for perfection often leads to avoidance and procrastination, or to overworking something. More seriously she broached the subject of extreme cases, as found in some of the patients she has worked with in a clinical setting. Perfectionism can be linked to anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders.
Headmistress Judith Carlisle said: "Real life is not about perfection. Even the most successful of lives has its share of setbacks, disappointments and failures."
You might think this begins and ends with exam results but as Laurie Penny writes in her new book Unspeakable Things "being the perfect girl can kill you".
The desperation to achieve perfection can lead to control over other aspects of life...
The desperation to achieve perfection can lead to control over other aspects of life, as Laurie Penny writes: "Of all the female sins, hunger is the least forgivable; hunger for anything, for food, sex, power, education, even love. If we have desires, we are expected to conceal them, to control them, to keep ourselves in check. We are supposed to be objects of desire, not desiring beings"
It appears we are bringing up a generation of girls who suffer an inner torment: "Perfect girls know that they must constantly improve. Of course, nobody is really a perfect girl."
How do we counter this? It is important, the professor stressed in her lecture at the high school, that girls are encouraged to strengthen their sense of self-worth and not base it entirely on achievement, allowing themselves to have a "compassionate rather than a self-critical inner-voice - freeing them up to be the best that they can be." I hope we can teach girls to be compassionate with themselves.