One time, I was down at the beach with my sister. I had a Barbie in her bathing suit, her feet wrapped up on the end of a jump rope. I kept flinging the jump rope out into the river and bringing it back. Kind of a “Oh, look, Barbie’s swimming!” thing. I was so excited to be doing that. I definitely knew the risks of losing my Barbie, which was why I chose the one who’s head I had experimentally torn the head off of and then put back on, which now looked deformed. I wasn’t too afraid of losing that one.
Of course, I did lose it. But it wasn’t because the jump rope came loose. I accidentally let go of the rope while flinging it, and the whole thing went out into the river. I was considerably more upset about the jump rope.
But I wasn’t upset about the jump rope, not really. I was more upset about how my parents would react to me losing the jump rope. It’s weird how our true feelings choose to reveal themselves.
I didn’t care about that jump rope. I knew we had a million more at home. I wasn’t scared that my parents would worry that they had to buy another one. I thought they’d get annoyed that I wasn’t responsible enough.
That was the first time I realized just how much pressure I put on myself to be perfect. Perfect grades, perfect interests, everything. I was blaming it on my parents as an incentive for myself, but really, they will love me whether I’m perfect or not. They’ve made that clear. It’s just me.
It probably started happening when I was around three years old. In the school I went to for pre-school ’til kindergarten, Friendship Montessori School, our teachers gave each of us Bob Books as a way for us to learn how to read. They were your average little kid book: “Bob has a cat. His name is Pat,” and so on. But I was, for whatever reason, better at reading them (slightly) than the other kids. I advanced faster than them. Soon, I ran out of Bob Books and had to read actual chapter books, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or whatever the official name of it is.
And then, in first grade, I was accelerated to second grade reading. I would literally leave my classroom, walk into the second grade one next door for one class, and then come back.
Are you starting to get the picture?
It wasn’t anyone’s fault but mine that I took this too far. I guess I figured that if I was ahead at that point, I had to stay ahead. I couldn’t fall behind, or I wouldn’t be above average. That’s all I wanted to be, was better than everyone else. Sounds vain, but doesn’t everyone want that at least sometimes?
I continued to get ahead of my peers. Not even because I work hard. Are you kidding me? I’m probably one of the laziest damn people in my Honors classes (of those that actually want to be there, at least). I just got lucky. Extremely lucky. I’m simply naturally better at school than almost all of my friends. Just a few days ago, on a test that I’d completely forgotten about until five minutes before, I got a higher score than my friend that studied practically all night for it.
It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. And because I’m naturally better at school than everyone else, I pressure myself to continue to be that way. If I have to work for it, I will, and I do, but that doesn’t happen very often. I beat myself up if I don’t get the best score in the class, even if I did forget about the test until right before we took it. I laugh and smile with everyone and pretend it doesn’t bother me. I even convince myself sometimes. But it does.
Oh, it really bothers me when I’m not the best. Is there anything I can do to change this? Probably not. And I don’t think I want to change that longing to be the best. But I do want to change all the pressure I put on myself. It’s strange: I pressure myself, but I don’t study. I don’t work hard, but I get mad if I don’t do well. That’s simply the way it is. I convince myself that being better is something that should come naturally, and usually, it does. But when it doesn’t, when I don’t get the best score, when I actually (God forbid) get lower than a 90%, get a B–I think that I’m lesser for it.
Again, I don’t think this has anything to do with my parents. In no way do they pressure me to be perfect. I mean, obviously they want me to do my best, and they’re very proud of me, but it’s not like they’re forcing me to study for three hours every night or withhold dinner if I don’t perform well. Most of the time, they have no idea what my grades are. But they assume that I have an A+ in every class. Everyone does. They’re right to, because it’s always true. But I always feel like I have to live up to that, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Whatever motivates you, right?
But it goes a bit too far when it makes me think that if I don’t, I don’t deserve to be called smart.
Do you face any of these problems? Am I just a vain girl complaining about being smart? What’s your opinion?