It's Just Another 'A'

    From the earliest years of our education we are taught that getting good grades and doing well in school are essential things for our success in the “real world”. Today, I feel as if this believe can be perceived in two different ways. The good way is that by trying hard to do your best in school, you will learn what works for you and what doesn’t, and in knowing that, doing well can help you find your destined path in life. The negative way this can be viewed is that the strong correlation between grades and success in life is unbreakable and if you fail at all in school, you will not succeed in life. This second viewpoint is the interpretation that had led me and many others towards a perfectionist lifestyle.

    All my life, I have been known as the bookworm, nerd, star student, teacher’s pet, genius, and straight A student. I was gifted with a great intellectual ability at a very early age and learning new things came very natural to me. I received all A’s through elementary school and got my first ever B in 7th grade. I’ve maintained my good grade streak of mostly A and a few B’s ever since and even continue to get all A’s in college. These accomplishments may justify the right for me to be called all the names listed above, but my journey towards getting all those good grades is not nearly as smooth as many people think it was. I am an academic perfectionist. Growing up with the constant fear of failing made me determined to excel in any academic subject I was given, whether I liked it or not. As I’ve gotten older, getting perfect grades has become much more difficult as the material I’ve been learning has been getting progressively harder and more stress was added on because of that.

    During my junior year of high school, I started noticing that I was taking out a bit of my mental stress on myself through pulling out my own hair and scratching as a way of relief. Continuing through college, I’ve spotted more habits forming that have originated from my school stress such as pulling all-nighters, exercising excessively, and skipping meals. The idea that achieving perfection is not mandatory has still not fully come to grasp in my head. Most college kids are known to be procrastinators, meaning that they put off their homework and assignments until the last minute. I, on the other hand, am the absolute opposite. The moment I get an assignment, I am already planning out how I am going to do it and when I am going to work on it to make sure that I to get it done on time. Now, this strategy can be helpful for many because it ensures that the project or paper is done well before the deadline, but for perfectionists like me, it adds a bunch of extra and unnecessary stress. Imagine having ten different assignments for five different classes and trying work on all of them at the same time because you want to make sure that each one gets done two weeks before its deadline. See the problem yet? We perfectionists never stop pushing ourselves to go above and beyond the required amount and after one assignment is finished, another is added. It's an endless cycle which drains the life and self-esteem out of many college students.

    In college particularly, the number of assignments one has tend to pile up between their classes and it’s very easy for academic perfectionists to get overwhelmed by this and spend 90% of their college days in the school's library. All of this building stress can also lead perfectionists to form bad habits, such as harming themselves or neglecting to sleep or eat, because they need some way to release their stress without necessarily compromising the amount of time that they have to work on an assignment per day. For me, perfectionism has taken this route, but the battle isn’t over yet. Seeking help and support from others is a good and often needed thing for perfectionists to do in order to work towards improvement. I’ve found that simply spending time with my friends and forcing myself to take movie and non-school related reading, coloring, and music breaks during the week can go a long way. My journey of getting over my perfectionist viewpoint is still bumpy, but it has come a long way already since my freshman year at Brenau University. Even though I’ve been continually working on it and improving, I still have occasional relapses and have had to go to counseling several times to help with it and that’s okay! It’s not okay to push yourself to the breaking point where you get so hung up on school work and grades that you forgot to live, but it is okay to reach out and get help when you need it. We are humans BEings, not human DOings! If there is anything I have learned from my experience as a perfectionist, it’s that you can’t solely focus on doing stuff perfectly, you must remember to be yourself while doing it and being human means that you are going to make mistakes! Try your hardest in college, but remember not to give up yourself and your humanity in order to do that!