10

Situation

I am a student. Probably due to my upbringing, grades are very important to me and currently I have a very high average.

I have a group of friends that I hang out with the most and we share many classes and thus exams or assignments. They are also often present during presentations I give. They don't care about grades as much as me and their averages are much lower, 1-2 of them even failed an exam that I passed with a almost perfect score. They are significantly younger than me.

Whenever I don't get the best possible grade I am disappointed and frustrated that I did not get the best possible grade and want to share these emotions with my clique.

I realize that my attitude towards grades is not healthy, but I doubt I will be able to change it until I graduate. Rationally, I understand that it does not really matter and I am probably still going to graduate "cum laude", but emotionally I can't stop feeling frustrated, especially since I feel that it could have been prevented, had I procrastinated only one day less. Or, due to lack of sleep, I make a very dumb mistake in the easy part of an exam. I am also frustrated with myself for not doing more to "guarantee" an A+.

In case it is important: Grades are not very important for future employment, I should not have a problem finding a job. For me it's more about proving to myself (and others) that I can be a good student. I have dropped out of college in a related subject.

Problem

I feel inhibited to really open up and show my frustration to my clique because I suspect that they can't understand why I am so upset, because they would be more than happy to have these results. And I am afraid that they would think that I am ungrateful. Additionally, I suppose grades are just not an important subject to them. The best I can hope for is that someone makes a joke about whether I want to quit university now, which I don't mind at all (the comment). At least they acknowledge me this way. Of course they already know about my grades and that I am only satisfied if they are perfect. I have stated several times that I don't worry about passing an exam, it's only about getting a perfect grade.

Example

On an assignment I get an A instead of A+ and we talk about the results. They ask me what I got and I say

"I got an A."

and they say

"Oh, congratulations!"

And I want to add

"I am not really happy about it, in fact I am really disappointed. Had I started a little earlier I could have fixed the part that I knew was not perfect. I rushed the whole thing in 7 days and was really hoping for an A+ but it was not enough. I feel like I was so close. And this grade will destroy my almost perfect average. And now I am going to be in a bad mood for a few days. Especially because no one really understands my frustration and how I am feeling..."

But I don't say this, or only parts of it, because I understand that they don't care about it as much as me.

What I am looking for/asking?

A way to communicate and vent my emotions and disappointment, maybe have a conversation that they are interested in, too. The goal for me, is to feel better and create a deeper connection with my friends.

Solutions that are not applicable

Changing friends: I understand that I could look for friends that have a similar attitude towards grades, and in fact I have some that can relate to my frustration a lot. But I like to be able to communicate my emotions with "regular" friends as well, because these are the people I hang out with the most and I like them for many other reasons.

37

If you say

I got an A

Then everyone who is happy with an A will say "great!" and similar responses. If you then contradict them that an A is not great, they will feel criticized, not just for not getting an A, but for being such a fool as to think an A is great.

If you say

I got a lower mark than I was trying for

People will understand immediately that this is not a cause for congratulations. They will commiserate with you. (Less so if you tell them the mark, but still a little.)

Imagine someone getting a cheque in the mail and saying

I got $100,000

That sounds terrific, right? But they had been told it might be as much as a million, so they're disappointed.

Your friends might try to cheer you up by telling you an A is not that bad. Or they might encourage you to figure out what happened so you can meet your goals.

I went to university (over 30 years ago) with someone whose father had been through the same program and was top mark in the class each of the 8 terms of the program. This young man felt that second in his class was utter failure. Our attitudes to him before we knew about his father were not supportive, probably because we felt criticized for not "caring" as much as he did. He was constantly working, never satisfied, complained about unfairness in the strangest things. For example, he bought the texts months in advance to read them on his work terms. One year a prof had a heart attack and couldn't teach, and the new prof chose a new book. He threw an absolute tantrum over this, and many of us told him to get some perspective (someone nearly died and has been left unable to work! The unfairness here is not on you for having "wasted time" reading a relevant book!), which is when we learned the father story. After that we at least understood why he was like that, and it was easier for us too because we didn't feel that he was looking down on us for not striving the way he did. We all have our burdens.

20

Kate Gregory hit the mark with her excellent answer. Please consider this an expansion.

It's hard for people to empathize with someone complaining about success. It may not seem like a success to you because of your expectations, but it is, nonetheless, a success in almost anyone's eyes.

An exact corellation - because it can be controlled by the amount of work you do - is complaining to your co-workers (when all of you work on commission),

I only made $350,000 this year. I was hoping to make $400,000.

So, if you want to vent, first, never divulge your grades. Second, never judge your friends' grades in any way. (E.g. Never say anything like, "Yeah, but that's because you'd be content with a B.") Third, just be a human they can relate to: someone frustrated by your failings. Just don't mention what specifically constitutes a failing in this case. Fourth, acknowledge that it doesn't seem like a failure to them if the grade is known.

I know an A is a really good grade and that I should be happy with it, but I really struggle with grades and self-esteem. I feel like a failure if I don't get an A+.

People can't argue with feelings. "I still feel like a failure" is the key.

Hopefully people will stop thinking of themselves and their grades long enough to really hear you and let you feel heard.

2

I would not vent to people who could not empathize. The whole need to vent in this case is unnecessary risk-taking. Complaining to peers is effective because of shared experiences. You can complain about that teacher you both hate, for instance targeting an overly punitive late policy. You would be less successful if that peer really enjoyed that teacher, or considered them an important mentor.

The shared experience most people have with grades is about passing, about that D+. If they don't share your experience, they will have different emotions than you. If you have to hide details in order to have common ground, that common ground is then predicated on secrecy, which will evaporate in the harsh light of the truth.

It is easier to be discrete about a momentary feeling of disappointment than an externally verifiable fact.

I commend your drive, but I must recommend that you bear this indignity alone.

2

The issue cannot be resolved in a single conversation, said out of context it's bound to end badly.

True, it does help when you change from:

"I am disappointed with an A."

to:

"I feel I could have done better."

But in both cases many people will be unsympathetic, because either it can be frustrating or insulting to hear, or just sounds like this is wholly self inflicted and overblown by your choosing to create unrealistic expectations.

In order to be able to discuss this with your peers, you have to attempt to understand how they feel about it, and they need to better understand how you feel about it. If you bring this up well before the exam result, it will help people to sympathise with each other.

Let's say you have a conversation with your friends about what they expect to achieve in the coming exams, how much work they'd want to put in to achieve that, and what success or failure means to them. This will help preface the outcome, and generally should make everyone have a bit more of a realistic view of what they can achieve. Then when exam results come out, people will be more sympathetic to all involved because they have gained an awareness of everyone's aspirations and efforts.

1

Although most of the answers so far are pretty good, I believe they focus only in palliative measures to deal with the situation. As you have said, what you're experiencing is a kind of obsession and you should deal with that first.

I believe you can live a lighter life without the burden of perfection and find joy in your current results. Failure and imperfection is part of human nature, is part of the progress towards maturity and wisdom.

To live a life always trying to score perfection in academia or professionally or in any other aspect of life, is exasperating. It prevents us to live a more grateful life for what we have achiev despite our current or previous failures. It prevents not only ourselves, but all those who are with us, friends and family.

This is not a invitation to a mediocre life, this is a invitation to recognize and cherish ours achievements and to understand that sometimes good is better than excelent.

0

I am sometimes disappointed with A+, much to the confusion of my friends.

I have found that it works better if I focus on describing my performance, and not my grade. Something like

Well, I got a A, but I really think I could've done better had I just practiced my presentation a bit more.

Or if you want to keep it short

I messed up a bit, but/so got an A.

As Kate says, simply stating "I got an A" will be judged differently by everyone.

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