I grew up knowing the word “girlyswot” – a girl who studied hard for her grades, and cared for them. A lot.
My girlyswot nature came out to play last night when I got back a uni assignment and received 80% for it.
I have a childhood friend who used to say, “If you get 60%, it means you studied 10% too hard.” Not only is his maths faulty (think about it…) but the attitude is alien to me. Yeah, sure, “Ps get degrees” is the mantra of student support staff, but somehow – and not unreasonably, given my past performance – anything less than a “HD” seems like failure.
Yes, yes, I heard what I just wrote. I’m not saying this level of perfectionism is a good thing! I’m just saying that it’s part of my perpetual “depression goggles“: if I don’t get superb grades for academic work, I feel as though I’ve failed. Ridiculous, right? (Especially when my running grade for the subject is still at 88.6%. I just did that calculation as a self-soothing measure! Yes, join me in laughing at myself.)
I understand this dysfunctional dynamic, I know where it comes from, and I manage my mood around it. I mean, seriously: 80% is not a bad grade. I am proud that I managed to feel annoyed and amused last night, and prevented a great weight of self-loathing descending upon me.
Juan Blea, one of my favourite bloggers, wrote an excellent piece about failure lately – well worth a look. This morning, I am thinking about the value I can receive from academic “failure”. Here’s my list so far:
- It highlights my girlyswot nature and the fact that I am being a perfectionist. These are good things to be aware of, because they are examples of distorted thinking which need to be challenged
- I really, really learn from the feedback I get on assignments, because I want each successive one to be excellent. (That was one thing which annoyed me about this grade: I only got one sentence of feedback! Still, it was a short assignment.)
- It gives me cause to think about other ways the “raging success or utter depression” dynamic plays out in my life. This is very useful for a depressed person!
- My husband always finds it amusing. It’s nice to make a man laugh.
I think there’ll always be a part of me which is a “girlyswot” and strives for academic perfection. However, I hope that over time the level of perfectionism in other arenas of my life gets dialed back.
Do you have an area of your life which you’re a perfectionist in?