Your Mental Health Matters More Than Your Grades
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Health and Wellness

From The Girl Who Sacrificed Her Mental Health For A 4.0

​My definition of "success" is warped.

From The Girl Who Sacrificed Her Mental Health For A 4.0
tokyoexpressway / Flickr

"But I could do better." Constant echoes in the back of my mind, my brain urging me to just try a little harder, stay up a little later, stare at it a little longer — anything to make it perfect. "It'll all be worth it when you get your final grades. What's a semester of hell for a lifetime of success?" OK, I can do this. I know I'm capable of it, if I just put that extra effort in, give it 200 percent, then I'll get an A.

If I drive myself crazy enough, I'll be perfect.

Perfectionism is something that I only started struggling with once I was in college. In high school, I was a good student, but I maintained a happy balance. I didn't stress over my academics, I did my best and hoped for the best. At first, college was a wake-up call for me. I had to actually do work and, you guessed it, apply myself. This is when my toxic relationship with my grades began.

Once I realized that if I give it my all and more, I was capable of getting all A's. And, because I could, I had to. It started with that feeling from my first exam grade, and it was a feeling of self-fulfillment and success that I just loved. My grades were something that I could control — in fact, they felt like the only thing that I could control. So, I focused all of my energy on them.

In fact, I became obsessed.

I was on a pursuit of perfection, but it only led to disaster.

Everything became a competition. If I got a 94 on the first test, I had to do better on the next one. If the person next to me got a higher grade on an assignment, I was stupid and could have done better. If I got a mark that was below my standards, it was a mark on my person. I wasn't happy for anyone who did better than me, because I had to be the best. If I wasn't perfect, I wasn't good enough.

While my grades flourished, my mental health dwindled.

All of my energy was focused on perfection. All of my efforts were toward school, school, school.

I couldn't hang out, because I had to study.

I couldn't smile, because I was stressed about an exam.

I couldn't calm down, because my life would be over if I didn't do well.

I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't stop stressing. I felt like I couldn't breathe.

I began to resent learning because of how I experienced it.

Learning quickly became a chore for me. I didn't want the experience, I just wanted to know everything that I needed to. If I was studying for an exam and didn't know something already, I would kick myself for it because I should have. I should have known, because then studying would be so much easier. You don't get A's from not knowing.

My definition of "success" is warped...

When you've set the bar high, it's hard to release yourself from the shackles of "success." My definition of success is a 4.0, which is a toxic mindset to have. It's easy enough for me to tell other people that "C's get degrees," or, "Just give it your best and learn something," but, at times, it seems impossible for me to heed my own advice. I feel stuck in a cycle of perfection and sometimes I wish that I could just bear to let myself down for once, to experience it, and to realize that maybe it's not the end of the world.

...but I am trying to do better for myself.

There is nothing wrong with striving for a 4.0, so long as it does not affect your mental health and well-being. For me, I am completely tormented by my own mind when it comes to this. So, I looked for support. The first time that I realized that what I was doing was unhealthy was when I realized how jealous I was of my friends who were OK with whatever score they got on a test, because they did all that they could. My problem is convincing myself that I didn't do all that I could if I didn't get an A. But, I'm trying.

I know that life isn't about grades and GPA. I know that college isn't about being perfect. I know that I don't want to spend my life pursuing the impossible, perfection.

So, heed my advice, and hopefully, I will take it myself: find balance, because there you will find health and happiness.

Nobody is going to give a rat's ass what you got on your Calc 1 exam your Freshman year of college.

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