I was at a restaurant called HopDoddy in California and overheard a heated conversation between a daughter and her parents. She was trying to plead with them to have just one semester that she could get all A’s and just one B. And her parents spent a while almost degrading her for getting a B, that they thought she was smarter than a B and that she was selling herself short. The girl was trying so hard to explain herself, to explain how hard the class was for her and essentially how she just wanted a break. My heart broke for her when they didn’t really take the time to listen to her.
We put so much pressure on those around us to be perfect. We put pressure on our young adults to get perfect grades so that they can lead the perfect life. But perfection doesn’t exist because everyone’s sense of perfection is different. And when we encourage perfection, we encourage a lack of self-acceptance. Grades aren’t everything. Although they matter to a certain extent, nobody introduces themselves and says “Hello I’m Ivy and my GPA in college was 3.98”. Nobody does that, because honestly, no one cares. I used to highlight my 3.98 GPA on my resume to almost showcase my intelligence, to show how hard I worked. But what I had worked so hard for was actually perfection and perfection led me to self- destruction. My “perfect” GPA only fueled the hate that I had for myself as I didn’t accomplish perfection because I didn’t graduate with a 4.0. I remember the sting I felt when I got an A-, a moment that felt like a failure and I could feel that same pain in that girl’s eyes.
For me, I had to learn that the pressure and expectations from others would always be there. Unfortunately, we can’t always change the people around us. But even though that pressure to be perfect was around me, I could make a choice to strive for something other than perfection. I could realize that I was imperfectly beautiful. I could realize that it wasn’t about having great grades and being perfect as an athlete, but that it was about doing my best, and that as long as I gave it all that I had, it would be enough.
And that’s really why I do the work that I do, for people like the girl I saw struggle tonight. I am not sure if this struggle will impact her like it impacted me and so many others, but I know that I tell my story so that we can listen more, understand more and judge and expect less.
So to the girl who tried so hard to explain yourself, I know you are giving it all that you have because that’s all you’ve ever known. But I want you to know that all you have given is enough and that you are doing such an amazing job. I hope you remember that you are enough.
For the girl who I tried so hard to make eye contact and let you know that it was okay to be frustrated, I want you to know I hear you. To the girl who everyone is telling you to be perfect, I hope this finds you somehow, someway. I want you to know that I see you and I know you are doing the best you can. Please never let anyone take away your shine, you don’t need perfect grades to be the amazing person you already are.
I so desperately wish I had the chance to tell you all these things. But I hope this finds you. Until then, I am sending you strength to keep fighting, and I am sending you hugs and love because I want you to know you are not alone. I felt how you did. But more importantly, I want you to know that it doesn’t always have to be this way.