I’m fifteen years old. I just received my report card from school and I’m scared. I’m taking advanced classes this year and it’s harder than I expected. My grades aren’t up to par and I know I’m in trouble. I enter the house and head towards the living room. I know that’s where my mom will be. I hesitate as I enter and she looks up at me. My hands shake as I hand the report card to her. She looks it over, heaves a heavy sigh, and looks up at me. “We’ve talked about this”, she says. “You can do better than this Tiffany.” I groan and try to hold back my tears. “But it’s an advanced class Mom. It’s harder than normal classes”, I argued. “I don’t care Tiffany. This better not be on the next report card,” she replies. I take back the report card and head to my room. I feel defeated. I sit on my bed and stare at it. The ‘B’ in Honors English glares up at me. I can do better.
I’m sixteen years old. I’m dating this guy and I couldn’t be happier. He wants to take me and some friends to the amusement park for my birthday. I’m so excited and my parents say yes! I’m getting ready to leave; my boyfriend is on his way. My dad stops me in the kitchen and gives me the run-down. “Tiffany – be safe, don’t spend too much money, and be home by ten,” he rattles off. “But the park closes at ten. Can I come home at eleven?”, I beg. “Ten, Tiffany”, he responds. I head out the door to the waiting car and hop in. We have a great time. We ride all the rides, buy all the food, and play all the games. A day full of fun, laughter, and more. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday. It’s getting dark so we start heading out. It takes about an hour to get home so we know we have to hit the road. Traffic leaving the park is backed up and I start to panic. My boyfriend reassures me we’ll be fine. We get on the highway and there’s an accident. One of the lanes is shut down and I worry. My boyfriend suggests texting my dad and letting him know what’s going on. So I do. My dad replies and he’s angry. I can tell. My heart starts to race and my boyfriend starts speeding. We speed all the way home, but we’re still late. I creep into the house and hope that my dad’s asleep. He’s not. He looks at me disappointed and informs me that I’m grounded for a month. I don’t even argue – I’ve given up.
I’m twenty-two. I work full-time but I’m going to school full-time as well. My days are filled with work and my nights with homework. I spend all my time behind a computer screen and I work my butt off. I’m taking one of my college courses and I’m struggling. I spend every spare minute I have studying, but I’m still worried about my final exam. My exam comes and goes, and I think I did okay. I get a decent grade on my final, but my final grade is an 89.9%. I email my professor and ask for some extra credit. That 0.1% is killing me. My professor tells me there’s nothing he can do and I cry. My husband tries to comfort me and asks me what’s wrong. I explain what happened. “You’re crying over a ‘B’?!”, he exclaimed. “Yes! I’m only 0.1% away!”, I explain. “So what? It’s still a ‘B’. A ‘B’ is good,” he responds. “I’ve only gotten a ‘B’ one other time,” I sob. “Seriously?”, he asks. “Seriously”, I answer.
I’m twenty-four. I took some time off work so I could have my beautiful baby boy. I’m back on the job market and looking for the perfect one. I apply and I apply. I have interview after interview. I receive multiple offers but none of them really fit. I start to get nervous that I won’t find the right one. And then it happens. I receive an email about a job I applied for. It’s perfect. I want it. Bad. I send them my resume. They’re interested! I have a phone interview. They liked me! We meet in person. I think it went well! And I wait. After a few days with no word, I get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I email the HR representative and follow-up. “We decided to go with another option”, she responds. I kick myself. I replay the interview in my head again and again. I obsess over my responses and wonder where I went wrong. I complain about it for two days straight. Why am I such a failure?
I was raised to be a perfectionist. I was always told that I could do better, be better. In some ways, that was great. It instilled a hard work ethic in me and inspired me to always be striving for more. But there was a downside to that mentality too. It cultivated this belief in me that I was never good enough. Everything I did was never enough. I could always do more, be more.
This yearn for perfection has been a constant source of struggle in my life. There have been countless times throughout my childhood and now as an adult, that I have felt worthless. I have felt like a failure. I have felt less than. My husband has consistently had to correct my perspective. He’s had to point out time and again that I am none of the above. He’s had to remind me that while I may have gotten a ‘B’, a ‘B’ was still great. Or that maybe I didn’t get that job, but I was offered others and I would find something else. Writing these words down, those reminders seem so silly. Of course I know those things. I know that I’m being irrational. I know that a ‘B’ doesn’t make me an idiot and a lost job doesn’t make me a failure. I know that. But I don’t feel that.
A lifetime of disappointing my parents has created this vicious parade of thoughts in my mind and feelings in my heart. It’s something I’m working on to this day, every day. I have to remind myself that I am okay the way I am, I’m okay where I’m at. I could always do more, be better. But I don’t have to. And that’s okay too.