In this world, one needs to be a little too good in order to be good enough.

-Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux

Assuming that, like me, you have no idea who this Pierre guy is – here’s a bit of background info:

  • born in Paris in 1688
  • died, also in Paris, in 1763
  • more commonly known as Pierre Marivaux (for what I assume are obvious reasons)
  • a prolific writer – dramatist, novelist and journalist – whose comedic plays were amongst the most frequently performed at the time.

When I first saw Marivaux’s quote, I assumed it was from much more recent times. Apparently though, France in the 1700’s had the same issues with overly high expectations that we do today.

Perfectionism is the beast that looms forefront in my mind when I read Marivaux’s words. I call it a beast because, for me, it was – and still is.

As a high school student I constantly put pressure on myself to achieve top marks. May I emphasise the words on myself here. I received straight A’s throughout high school; full marks on all tests and assignments; and 110% on Maths tests. (No, that was not a typo – we had bonus questions.) I fully believed that if I got less than 100%, everyone would be talking about me. The pressure I put on myself was horrific. To this day, I have to talk sternly to myself in order not to be disappointed by less than perfect results.

Did I have to be too good in order to be good enough? Absolutely.

Another thing that I notice as a teacher is the scary number of parents who offer $50 for every ‘A’ their child receives on their report. (Just saying – my parents did not do this.) For those who do not know – an ‘A’ grade, these days, is well above average. A ‘C’ grade means that you are working at expected level, keeping your head well above water and achieving what you need to achieve.

I do not know of a single parent who offers their child $50 for each ‘C’ they receive on their report.

What sort of message is this sending to our children?

Hey kids! Your ‘C’ is good – but not good enough!

Pah! Some people need to take a long hard look at themselves.

(And don’t get me started on those ‘soccer parents’ – or any sport parents for that matter – who stand at the sidelines with their coffee and muffin yelling instructions and frustrations at their poor child who just wants to kick the ball around.)

Back to the grades: At our house, we celebrate the ‘C’s, ‘B’s and ‘A’s equally. I refuse to transfer my own perfectionism to my children … or to anyone else’s children. I want to see that they have worked to the best of their ability and I want them to be happy with their achievements (for what they are, not because they beat so-and-so).

Above all, I want my kids to feel good about what they achieve … and to never, ever feel that what they have done or achieved is not ‘good enough’.

Wise words indeed Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux. We need to change this … who is with me?

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