August 20, 2020


Dear Nikki,
When I was younger, grades were no big deal. When I started middle school this year, though, that all changed. Now I’m obsessed with my grades. In the past, if I didn’t get an A or above, I would get kinda frustrated. Now, if I get anything below a 99%, I burst into tears! I put too much pressure on myself, but I can’t stop! How do I stop freaking out over my grades?!

A+ Anguish

Hello A+ Anguish,

Oh my gosh! Okay—take a deep breath. Seriously, breathe in slowly through the nose for four seconds, and then out slowly through the mouth for four seconds. (That’s what my mom’s yoga teacher always says to help her chillax!)

I’m guessing you already know this, but I have to say it: ANY kind of A is an extremely good grade! Even a 90% or 91%. And a B is a good grade too! I mean, it’s better than a C, right?!

Or, think about it this way: If you’d been getting Ds, but then you started getting extra help and working super hard, even a C is a good grade! Anyways, I digress…

It sounds like you’re focused on perfection. The problem with that is, you’re going to be disappointed most of the time. Because NO ONE is perfect! No matter how hard you study or prepare for a test, it’s normal AND human to make mistakes, or have a brain fart and totally forget an answer.

I wonder WHY you’re so focused on getting perfect scores? You said you put the pressure on yourself, so it doesn’t sound like it’s coming from your parents. What’s up with that? I’m guessing these are some reasons why you might be so tough on yourself:

  1. Maybe you believe that your grades = your intelligence. Well…they don’t. Loads of really smart people don’t always get good grades. Sometimes people who get the best grades ARE really smart, but often they’re people who are really good at school stuff. But, let’s say you’re not all that good at school stuff. Guess what?! You can STILL be AMAZING at other stuff, like sports or fine arts!
  2. Maybe you believe your grades = your future. This is also not true. It CAN mean that doing well in middle school can put you into more advanced classes in high school, which can lead to getting into a good college (remember, mostly Bs can ALSO get you into college!). Plus, when you’re interviewing for a job one day, no one is going to ask what grade you got in 8th grade pre-algebra. So you should do your best now, but don’t think your future is doomed if you don’t ace every test.
  3. Maybe your parents put more pressure on you than you realize. You might not have the kind of parents who get upset if your grades slip. But maybe you have high achieving siblings and you’re trying to keep up. Or maybe your parents went to really prestigious colleges and you feel like you need to, too. So just think about whether there are some family pressures. If there are, maybe talk to your parents about the pressure you feel. I bet they’re going to assure you you’re doing great and you don’t have to get only 99s and 100s to make them happy.
  4. Maybe you compare your grades to what other people get. Like I said before, it could be a high achieving sibling. It could also be a classmate or a friend. Do you ever feel pressured to keep up with or do better than someone else? If so, I’m afraid that’s a one-way ticket to NEVER being satisfied. There will always be someone out there with a higher grade or a better score. But, the good news is there will NEVER be someone out there with the exact same style, talents and abilities you have! ☺

So whether you’re a top student trying super hard to get the best scores, or you’re someone who worries about how it’s going to impact your future, just relax and give yourself a break. You’re already doing an AMAZING job!

Hey readers, do you always want the very best grade on everything? How do you handle homework and test scores? Tell us in the comments below!