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Why You Should be Proud of Not Being Exceptional

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.

I have been a perfectionist since birth, petrified by the possibility of being average and (god forbid) below average.

I would wake up in middle school with a spare 30 minutes to do my mascara. I would do it over and over again until it was absolutely perfect. This thinking pattern spread like a disease into everything appearance-related, as I channelled perfectionism into my hair, clothes, body, and being.

I also needed to be exceptional at school. When I was younger, I prided myself on getting good marks, gleaming from the validation of a teacher. I took elementary school as seriously as pre-med students take their MCAT.

Moreover, it wouldn’t have been enough to be exceptional in some areas, and I spent years of my life trying to find a hobby to excel at. I tried every recreational hobby in the book. I enrolled in dance classes, gymnastics, piano, guitar, and every team sport you could think of — from soccer to trampoline to figure skating.

Now, you would think if I’ve dabbled in so many different hobbies that something must have set off a spark (nothing did), and you may also think I’m going for the moral of “practice makes perfect” (I’m not… Although it may be true, it’s far from my point).

Here’s the Deal With Not Being Exceptional.

As I grew older, I grew out of most of my perfectionist tendencies, since they became impossible to chase after. I stopped putting so much pressure on my appearance. I stopped equating my self-worth to marks. I stopped trying to find that one hobby that would differentiate me from the herd — that would announce to the world that I am, in fact, exceptional.

We will encounter many things in life that are graded against a scale of success. When we get graded on our papers, we aren’t writing to enjoy: we’re waiting on that good mark. Of course, we can also enjoy writing, but finding someone who holds no value to academic grading is scarce. The school system does not set us up to find pleasure in learning, which isn’t even a criticism against this paradigm.

Instead, I am criticizing myself for holding so many things in my life to this standard of exceptionality. The world wouldn’t have crashed and burned if my mascara wasn’t perfect or if I had continued to play guitar despite not being as good as my friends.

When I let go of the standard of perfection, my enjoyment of life skyrocketed. It is more than okay not to be exceptional. In fact, I think it takes a lot of pride to be bad at something. It is figuratively impossible for us to be exceptional at everything, so the more leeway we give ourselves to try new things and be bad at them, the more things we experience in life. If we only did things we were good at, we’d be leaving little to no room for something that may spark authentic joy.

Leah Pearl

Queen's U '24

Leah is a third year student at Queens U majoring in Religious Studies.