As classes wind down, exam period rears its head just beyond the horizon. I’ve finished the papers and quizzes and am beginning to prepare for the dreaded finals. Here is where hair gets pulled out, sleep is elusive, and my distraction level away from family rises. It is not the grades that I need as I am doing quite well at that game, but it is a much darker and destructive problem that I have. I like to think that it is a problem that many students struggle with. It is definitely one that I have struggled against not only in my academic career, but in my life in general. It’s the issue of perfectionism. It’s a thought process that impedes my progress as a human and really feeds into my anxiety. To put this into perspective, upon receiving a 96% on my biology lab exam, my first stop in my thoughts was where the hell that 4% went. I did not even ponder on the possibility that it was an outstanding mark, but went directly to the points of failure.
This isn’t only a stop when it comes to academics. I will analyze my social interactions, my worthiness as a husband, and my abilities as a father with the same relentlessness. If it is not perfect, then it is failure. Second place is the first loser. My wife often tells me that if I got 100% in every class, I would be teaching it. Those are wise words that I ignore completely. I’m sure it’s frustrating for her. My mind tells me that if I’m going to work so hard at something that I better be perfect at it. I don’t need to tell you guys how unhealthy that thought is, but I will anyways. It is incredibly damaging to think that way. When one sets the bar to an unattainable level, failure is inevitable. So that 96% meant that I got something wrong and that is hard for me. Instead of realizing that the 65% average meant that I did incredibly well, I chose to see the failure.
So now comes the time where I tend to lose myself. I study and study and concentrate on that ever elusive 100% and forget myself in the process. I become unbearable and distant. I anger easily and have shoe string patience. In other words, I’m a grump and an ogre. This is not the fault of regular school stressors or expectations from teachers or family. It rests directly on my perfectionist shoulders. It’s ok to get some questions wrong, hell even doctors have to reference books to properly assist us. I’m not perfect and that’s ok. Now it’s time to believe that.