I’m so sorry that you’re feeling so overwhelmed with school and the pressure to be perfect :[ As someone who used to be a perfectionist, I definitely resonate with your struggle.
1. First, I want to challenge the belief that you suck at everything apart from getting good grades.
I may not know you personally, but I know that all of us, no matter who we are or where we come from, have important things to offer the world. Things that don’t include how we do in school — which honestly isn’t an accurate measure of intelligence or self-worth. It’s just an arbitrary way to gage what you were able to learn in a class at a particular time in your life given whatever else you were going through, and given how your instructor’s style of teaching matched up with your personal style of learning. That’s all.
2. I can imagine that there are actually a lot of things you’re good at, but you’ve been taught, either by your family or society, or both, that they’re unimportant.
Maybe you’re a great listener and you make your friends feel seen and heard and cared for. Maybe you’re awesome at cooking or baking. Maybe you’re really great with animals or children. Maybe you’re good at making people laugh and bringing positive energy to their lives. Maybe you’re good at asserting yourself and getting your needs met. Maybe you’re great at solving puzzles and problems or processing information quickly. Maybe you’re good at telling jokes or giving hugs or making hand-made birthday cards.
Or maybe your preoccupation with getting perfect grades has kept you from trying new things and exploring different activities. Maybe it’s prevented you from finding other things — outside of school — that you’re good at and would enjoy. Whatever the case, there is so much more to you than the grades you get. And with or without really high grades, you have a lot of special things to contribute.
3. Your worth is not contingent upon how you do in school.
It’s something inherent. You exist and therefore, you matter. I know it’s something I say all the time on this blog. But I say it because it’s true. Getting a less than perfect grade doesn’t have the power to discount your worth. It doesn’t make you inadequate or a failure. It makes you human. No one is perfect. We all have certain classes or tests that we mess up on. We all have days where we’re struggling with personal stuff and we just aren’t able to do as well as we could have on a particular assignment. We all have a class or two or three that we don’t do very well in. And that’s okay. It’s normal. So instead of expecting yourself to be perfect, try giving yourself permission to be human.
4. Getting a few lower grades won’t prevent you from getting into a university or being offered a job.
Sure, it’s true that some professions require a higher overall grade point average and level of education in order to get in, but there’s nothing written in stone that says if you get one bad grade, or a handful of average grades, that you can’t achieve your career goals. The truth is that you can be imperfect and still be successful. You can struggle and make mistakes and still be capable and talented. You can be less than the best at something and still be valuable and loved and worthwhile.
Getting a mediocre score on a test or in a class isn’t going to make or break the rest of your life. It’s just one or two or three grades out of the dozens you will receive throughout your academic career. It really doesn’t have as much power as it feels like it does in the moment.
5. Your friend’s accomplishments and good grades don’t discount your own.
How she does in school doesn’t have the power to add to or subtract from your worth. Your value as a person exists independently of how other people perform, because, like I said before, it’s something inherent. Just by taking up space in the world, you’re significant and worthwhile. You’re here, alive and breathing, and therefore, you matter. And no test score or grade your friend gets can ever take that away.
6. You don’t have to be the best at something to be valuable.
The reality is that there will always be someone who’s smarter than us in a particular subject. Someone who gets better grades than us. Someone who writes a better paper than us. Someone who’s better at learning and grasping a concept than us. And that’s okay. That’s just life. It’s impossible to be the best at everything. And most of us will never even be at the best at anything. And again, that’s okay.
You aren’t any better or worse than your friend — you’re just different. You have a unique set of strengths and talents and gifts to offer the world. Things that you, and only you, can share. Whether it’s your laughter or the way you smile. Your creativity or your intellect. Your empathy or your kindness. Your passion or your friendship. Your thoughts or ideas or unique human perspective — you have important things to contribute just by existing. And in that way, you will always be special and valuable.
7. Breathe and trust that you will get to where you need to be.
Remind yourself of all the times in the past you were faced with something that felt really difficult and overwhelming. Something that left you feeling lost and unsure. And how each time, things ended up being okay, and in one or or another — even if it wasn’t exactly as planned — you got to where you needed to be. This is no different.
So just keep breathing and trust that everything will work out in the end. You don’t have to have it all figured out now. No one really has anything figured out. We’re all just learning in the moment and taking things one step at a time. You’re doing the best you can to juggle your classes and get through the stress and anxiety that comes with being in school, and at the end of the day, that’s all you can ask of yourself. Your best in the moment is enough. And no matter what grades you get, you are enough.
I hope that this can help shift your perspective on perfection and make things a little easier.
Sending a lot of love your way,