The Trouble With Being A Perfectionist

I don’t believe that grades are all that important.

I believe that the North American education system is incredibly flawed in the way that they measure intelligence, and some people just don’t test well. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t intelligent – simply that their intelligence lies in something else.

I don’t know if I believe that anyone is unintelligent, really. I believe that we all have our strengths and our weaknesses, and nobody should be able to judge your worth based on those.


And yet, just the same, every time that my professors hand out the instructions to a new assignment, or when I look at the projects that I have ahead of me throughout the upcoming semester, I panic. I stress myself out about until it makes me miserable, until I don’t even want to do anything.

Sometimes, I bring myself to a point where I tell myself that I don’t care anymore, that I’m not even here for the grades. I’m here to learn, and if the best way that I can do that is just by skating by so I can focus on my actual retention, then so be it. But somehow, even despite those moments, I still manage to work myself up to an intense, all-encompassing, miserable sort of stress.

And I really don’t know why.

As I said before, it’s not like I really believe in grades. I think they’re stupid – an intensely flawed method that tests your ability to memorize facts and definitions rather than your ability to actually learn anything.

And yet, here I am again, right back where I started.

My best guess for why I do this to myself is one simple character trait that I am both proud of and plagued by: I’m a perfectionist. I hold myself to an impossibly high standard, and when I am unable to reach that, it makes me upset. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it pushes me to become better. Sometimes it cripples me and causes me more grief than the thing was originally worth anyway. I feel like both of these are true when it comes to my grades.

That, mixed with the fact that, as much as I don’t believe that grades are important, society has sort of insisted that they are. I’ve been in school roughly sixteen years now, and ever since, I’ve heard the same thing over and over again.

“School work comes first.”

“You need to get a good grade on this if you hope to get into university – and you need to get into university if you want a good life.”

“You can tell that teachers really favour the students who get good grades, can’t you?”

Everywhere I’ve looked, for the past sixteen years, there’s been nothing but people telling me how important grades are, so it doesn’t really matter if I believe in them or not. I’ve still internalized this acceptance that they are. And then that, combined with my being a perfectionist, results in this intense, harmful stress that I can’t really explain because I don’t really think I should have it.

So I’m identifying it now – one great flaw in my life that I need to work on. I need to stop stressing myself out over things that only matter to other people. I need to learn to relax, to reorganize my priorities, and most importantly, to find a way to be a student without making myself miserable.