Note to self: when it comes to academics, nobody is perfect

Trevor Crowell and Rio Popper

Poet, philosopher and motivational speaker Miley Cyrus once said, “Nobody’s perfect, I gotta work it, again and again, ‘till I get it right.” Great point, Miley! Seriously, though, she’s right.

In 2006, when this song was released, we believed her. After all, we were in elementary school; those were simpler times. But while Miley has fallen out of favor in the modern musical industry, her profound wisdom should most certainly not be forgotten.

People strive for perfection in many ways: athletic, aesthetic and social, among others. Here, in Silicon Valley, many of us strive for academic perfection. As much as you might think that there is a person who has never gotten a bad grade on a single test in the history of his or her academic career, there likely isn’t such a person. But let’s say for the sake of argument that such a student did exist. His or her performance shouldn’t cause us to feel bad about ourselves. Our inability to reach the ideals created by peers, parents, colleges and, chiefly, ourselves shouldn’t make us feel vulnerable, let alone feel like we’re failures, though many of us do feel these things. The reality is, we’ve been there. Most of us have watched as a classmate enthused over an A on a test while we sat quietly, feeling embarrassed and vulnerable.

So… Why does this obsession with aca- demic perfection persist? Why do we continue to allow one slight mishap to make us feel like we aren’t good enough, and, worse still, that we’ll never be good enough? If so many of us have felt this, it stands to reason that we’d have figured out it isn’t a logical feeling to have. Fixing it seems simple enough, too.

Unfortunately, we’re a long way off. But while such a monumental change in mindset is easier said than done, we can move in that direction. It all starts with realizing that ‘no one’s perfect’ is more than just a catchphrase that teachers, armchair psychologists and pop icons like to throw around—it’s actually true.

A brief look at history reinforces this point. Whether we examine the records of President John F. Kennedy, tech icon Steve Jobs or Nobel Prize Laureate Albert Einstein, we see that all of these unfathomably successful individuals struggled to succeed in academia at some point.

We aren’t suggesting that you drop your books and jump for joy when you fail your math test, but we are suggesting that you don’t let those mistakes allow you to view yourself, or others, negatively.

As obvious as it sounds, sometimes we just need to chill. Almost everyone knows that alto- gether cringe-y feeling of turning in a test that you know you didn’t do well on, but we sug- gest that, when this happens, you relax and not let such feelings define you. And if, when you get your results and your gloomy prediction becomes a reality, we suggest you acknowledge that failure today isn’t indicative of continued failure. Some of the greatest in history failed, too. We’re walking in the footsteps of heroes.

So the next time a test or homework assignment doesn’t go your way, take a step back, understand you’re not the only one and move on. It goes without saying, but there will always be another opportunity to succeed. There are always more homework assignments and more tests, after all. It’s crazy how that works.