I know what it’s like to think getting a B on a paper is basically a fail. I know I might seem like an imperfectionist (if that’s even a thing)… I’m a mentally ill college drop out with a part time minimum wage job and frizzy hair. But ever since I was young, I’ve been striving for As. And for the most part (until the bipolar thing kicked in), I was getting them. Those of you who chase As and A pluses and 4.0s and “perfect” know why you do it. Maybe it’s because your mom or your teacher told you you had to. Maybe it’s because your whole family was a mess and you felt like you needed to be the perfect one. Or maybe it’s because you watched a lot of Gilmore Girls and thought you had to be smart yet adorable like Rory Gilmore (but seriously, no teenage girl wants a dictionary for her birthday). And for whatever reason, you still feel like As are the only acceptable option. A is a pass and B is a fail. I feel that way still, and I’m not in a situation where I’d ever receive a letter grade.
When I went into a graphic design program straight out of high school, I got those As I desperately need at the start. However, soon I started rocking back and forth crying my eyes out every night, and everything seemed impossible. I couldn’t watch my grade slip from an A to a B to a “maybe you should take a year off and get help”. I just stopped going to school. I stayed in bed and berated myself for not being smart enough, not working hard enough, not being talented enough to do everything right on the first try. I’ll spare you the other two times I dropped out of college, but the story is pretty much the same. I'm a bipolar, anxious, OCD musician who must receive As in every subject in school, have a successful music career, and on top of that have a ton of friends and a healthy relationship. Unfortunately, I’m just too “stupid” to have all that figured out by my early twenties. What a shame.
Maybe that sounds ridiculous to some people, but perfectionists, you know what I mean. You can be a perfectionist and spend all day eating chips and watching bad tv. The “perfectionist” part is the part of you that tells you that you shouldn’t be doing that. That you should never take time off to rest. That you should instead be eating kale chips, and reading a book on your chosen career, or answering your emails. The “perfectionist” part is the part that calls you stupid and lazy when you make one mistake, or can’t live up to your unrealistic standards. There are no A pluses in life, but there are promotions, and instagram followers, and weddings. There are always other measurements that your perfectionist side can use to evaluate if you are getting a B, a C or and F in life.
When the person hiring you at Starbucks asks you the ridiculous question, “What is your greatest weakness,” no one is ever honest. We are taught to say things like “Oh, I’m a perfectionist.” It’s a weakness that we perceive as a strength in our culture, because our teachers or our parents or Christie Clark told us we needed As. So here’s the radical mission that my counsellor has sent me on, and the one I want to send you on too:
Aim for a B. The other day, I was telling my counsellor that I melted into tears after realizing that I hadn’t checked my email in five days. "I’m so unprofessional," I told her. She asked me if twenty something musicians were known for their professionalism. The answer is "Of Course Not." But I want to be known for my professionalism, and a million other things, because I’m a perfectionist. So what if I aim for a B? What if I answer only some of my emails on time? What if some days I drink smoothies and other days I eat chips? A stands for excellent, but B stands for good. What’s wrong with being good? You don’t have to be a perfect character on a tv show ( writers call Mary Sue characters), because you are not some fictional being made up by someone who wishes they could be better. You are a human. Humans can’t get straight As in life, because no one is excellent in everything. But what if you just aim for good? What if you get things right 70 to 79 percent of the time? That would still be amazing. Everyone would still love you just as much. So I dare you. Aim for a B.
To be honest, I don’t think this blog post is nearly witty enough or profound enough to post. But I’m going to post it anyway.