For much of my academic career I was a straight “A” student. I was an over-achiever and a perfectionist. I was known to cry when I got a “B.” The only “C” I ever got (in conduct because I talked, even then, way too much) prompted a parent teacher conference because it was such a surprise.
In high school I took the “advanced” classes. During my first two years at St. Louis University, I was on the dean’s list every semester. No matter what else was going on in my life, I expected and almost always achieved academic excellence. I was a gold star student. In my mind, I was defined by those academic accolades. I achieved, that’s who I was.
Until suddenly I didn’t.
When I was a junior in college I transferred to a school that was a few hours from my hometown. Immediately, more than just my surroundings changed. That first semester I got three “Cs” and an “F.” It wasn’t quite what I or anyone who knew me was accustomed to. For the first time in my life I didn’t care if I achieved. I didn’t care about the gold star. Academically, I checked out.
This is not an uncommon pattern in my life. I’ve been known to be either all in or all out. It’s a pattern that has been especially evident in my work life. I’m either the employee of the month or I’m unemployed. There has been very little middle ground. When I’m all in, I’m obsessed with earning the gold star. I put on the mask of perfection and exchange my comfort for kudos. When I’m all in, I’ll do almost anything to earn the praise of my employer.
But as you might guess, that gets to be exhausting. The exhaustion triggers a shift and suddenly I’m all out. I get bitter or I resign or both.
I tend to go, go, go until I crash. And then I pick myself up and start all over again.
It’s a cycle that will make you dizzy. It’s a cycle that has made me dizzy.
But I’m bored with that cycle. It’s tired and so am I. I’d like to replace it with a little bit of balance instead. I want to practice moderation. I want to be productive and successful without sacrificing my well being. So, I’ve decided to try a few new tricks.
I’m reminding myself that my worth is measured neither by the accolades nor the disapproval of others. Those gold stars must be de-emphasized! Instead, I choose to say, “Thank you,” for the kudos and move on. I want to appreciate them but not live for them. On the flip side, I will not to be crushed by criticism. I will learn from criticism but not dwell on it.
Next, I’m setting boundaries when it comes to work time. I’m giving myself permission to say, “No,” while monitoring my motivation for saying, “Yes.” I will work hard when it’s time to work, but let it go when it is not.
And finally, I’m confessing when I fail and refusing to put on the “perfect” mask. Since I’m not expected to be perfect, I don’t have to pretend to be perfect. There’s comfort in that.
Have you ever suffered or do you suffer from gold star-itis? What have you found to be the cure?
Molly Page has recently joined the Weaving influence team as an Implementation Specialist and Photographer. She is a social media junkie with a thirst for life long learning and an appetite for cupcakes. Currently she can be found falling madly in love with Chicago and chronicling the whole affair on her blog A Foreign Land. She also tweets up a storm under the guise of @mollypg.