Marcus High School's Online Newspaper

The Marquee

Marcus High School's Online Newspaper

The Marquee

Marcus High School's Online Newspaper

The Marquee

A losing game



Eraser crumbs covered the desk. I stared down at my tear soaked paper and the empty spaces I couldn’t fill. Everyone in my second grade class had finished their work and gone to lunch, but I couldn’t easily read the words that filled the page. Stomach grumbling, I sounded out each syllable, slowly stringing together each word that came so easily for the other kids. 

I looked at the three blanks left on the paper, asking myself, “Why can’t I be smart like everyone else?”

My teacher came back into the classroom, finding me blurry-eyed and staring at the table. She knelt down beside me, asking why I was unable to answer such a simple question: find three words that rhyme with “star”.

Embarrassed, I fiddled with my pencil, pointing the lead into my thumb, trying to make myself think — trying to punish myself for not knowing anything. All that was going through my head was how it was such an easy question, but I could barely read the words. Looking back, I know it wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t understand — but undiagnosed dyslexia and academic perfectionism.

From a young age, I was told to always do my best and never accept anything less, but I never really knew what that meant. My best would only get me close to failing grades on assignments I put my all into, so I began working past the burn out. 

Perfection soon became my impossible standard. Punishing and rewarding myself for that standard became my coping mechanism, but it never changed the results. It didn’t matter whether it was only allowing myself to eat after the hours of homework were done or stabbing my hands with pencils if I couldn’t answer the questions on tests. I ended the day feeling useless, stupid. 

These tactics led to calluses on my thumbs by the start of 3rd grade. I wouldn’t allow myself to do certain things because I was afraid to fail — so I didn’t even try.

Eventually, my hard work paid off and perfect scores became a reality, but even that didn’t always cut it. All that mattered was that I got a sense of satisfaction for what I had accomplished, and I rarely did.

Perfectionism became a game in which I was always losing. 

Even while writing this column, hands shaking, I struggle with finding the perfect words to articulate exactly what I mean to say. 

The expectation of perfection became such a normal part of my routine that I didn’t even realize how much it controlled me. It ruined so many experiences and aspects in my life because I wouldn’t let myself enjoy whatever I was doing.  I saw religion as a challenge to follow all of the rules, to pray all of the time, read the Bible and follow everything to the “T”, but nothing was ever enough. 

Finally noticing the effects of how perfectionism controlled me has shown me that it is impossible. No one deserves to hold themselves to that standard. No one is perfect and we shouldn’t try to be.

Perfectionism may still be an issue I struggle with but I know I don’t have to bend to it. I’ve learned that validation from a grade won’t complete you — it will rob you of your potential. 

Having controlling expectations can take out so much of the joy of life. It makes no matter how amazing of a feat someone accomplishes, it still feels like it just hitting the minimum requirement.  Expectations feed a need for more, making anything less than expected not good enough.

Having a mindset of knowing that failure isn’t bad has taught me to allow myself to make mistakes that ended up teaching me way more than any perfect score could.

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About the Contributor
Emily Couch, Reporter
Emily Couch (she/her) is a senior and is excited for her first year as a staff member for the Marquee! She appreciates good movies, writing of course, ceramics, painting and reading. Storytelling is one of her favorite things and she looks forward to telling the many stories of others this year for the marquee. :)

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