Embracing Growth: A Personal Journey with Perfectionism, Mental Health, and Learning from Failure
When I was in elementary school, we had a little frog character that would come to visit and tell us how to make good choices for effective conflict management. We would sit on the blue reading rug as a class and learn how to navigate difficult situations with our classmates. It was fun and helpful for my peers, but I already was good at conflict management. Being a goody two shoes meant I never sought out disagreement, and I found myself being the mediator in countless conflicts among my friends. I needed something more.
I was, and am, a perfectionist. This trait shows itself in funny ways. My room is rarely neat and organized, but the kitchen must be spotless at all times. When writing, my rough drafts are always the quality of a second or third draft, because putting out “low quality” work seems wrong. And, of course, being a straight-A student is non-negotiable. My perfectionism with academics started at such a young age that I can’t remember a time before it began. As I got older, I grew more tough on myself, and my stress levels skyrocketed. At one point, my dad joked that he would get me a new car if I let myself get a D in a class. Obviously, I did not get anywhere near a new car that semester.
I was so excited to go to UNC Chapel Hill for college, but once I was there, things didn’t go as planned. My mental health deteriorated, and I struggled with adjusting to this new phase of life. Even though taking it easy would have been beneficial. Despite my best efforts, I got my first B ever in Anatomy and Physiology as a freshman. I was incredibly upset with myself. As I progressed through college and my mental health improved, I could not get it through my head that the phrase “C’s get degrees” was literal. Then I started working as an intern at Big Head Bob and started reading about failure being learning. Sure, I’d heard that before, but through my work, it started sinking in. At 21 years old I was learning from a little character with a giant head that the thing I saw as failure was really just an opportunity to grow.
I have ample room to grow in accepting things I consider failures as chances to learn, and it is my hope that continued work at Big Head Bob will help me in my journey. My hope extends to the young people that you are helping to navigate the same journey. They will fall time and time again, but they will know how to stand back up. They will reach incredible heights, but still accept their mistakes as part of themselves. I picture a little girl like me, sitting on a colorful rug with her classmates, learning that weakness becomes strength, and failure is learning. She will make the mistakes I was too afraid to make and succeed where I was too afraid to try. Thank you, reader, for making such a difference in her life.