The Pressures of Being Perfect

Whitney Houston fans all over the world were stunned by the sudden, untimely death of the 48-year-old superstar singer in February. The official cause of death was listed as drowning brought on by the effects of heart disease and cocaine use. Her public struggles with substance abuse are well-known and were acknowledged by Whitney herself. Regardless of what led to her death, Whitney leaves behind a musical legacy and valuable lessons about self-worth.

It’s hard to believe, but the beautiful and incredibly talented Whitney Houston grappled with being good enough. Although she achieved a record seven consecutive number one singles, won six Grammy Awards, and inspired an entire generation of singers, she still worried about what others thought of her. As actor Kevin Costner pointed out in his moving tribute at Whitney’s funeral, despite her worldwide fame and success, the singer still asked, ‘Am I good enough?”, “Am I still pretty enough?” and “And will they like me?” when she made her acting debut. While that kind of uncertainty usually goes along with being great at your craft, the pressure to achieve perfection undoubtedly played a role in her downfall.

Whitney Houston’s story offers life lessons for all children and adults — not just those pursuing entertainment careers. In all kinds of professional industries, people are usually perceived to be only as good as their last achievement. It is ingrained in us that we have to constantly have one more success. Unfortunately, people feel they have to be better than their latest accomplishment or performance. But honestly, in the case of Whitney Houston, how could she top her rendition of the National Anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl? Or how could she top her biggest hit, I Will Always Love You?

Making someone into an idol or the constant center of attention can bring undue pressure on people and make them vulnerable to negative behavior. Over the years, I have seen many kids turn to substance use because they didn’t make the all-star team or came in second in a competition or couldn’t maintain a 4.0 GPA after transitioning to college. It’s important for kids to achieve balance in their lives. They should be the best they can be, and not put pressure on themselves to surpass their latest accomplishment. Encourage them to work to please only themselves.

Parents need to be a child’s main support system when self-worth issues arise. Don’t be afraid to intervene if you see your child is losing that balance of what really matters in life. Additionally, adults and kids should not stand by and do nothing if they see someone self-destructing under the life’s pressures. It’s much better to step in and offer help — before it’s too late. Unfortunately, Whitney Houston’s death is a sad reminder that being really good should be good enough.