Are You A Teacher’s Pet? I Am!
By: Christine Marshall Hersom
Were you ever the “Teacher’s Pet”? Does that term stir up some yucky emotions or connotations for you? Maybe you were the teacher’s favorite and proud of it. No judgment. I am not particularly talking about pleasing the teacher by volunteering to slap the chalk out of the eraser’s or handing out papers!
I remember when I was in school, I did not want any direct attention on me. I did not want to be called on and preferably no eye contact. It didn’t mean I hid in the background and wasn’t a high performer. I received good grades and when given an assignment, I launched into overdrive focusing on excellence and completing assignments before the deadlines. I was perhaps the seek an “A” kind of Teacher’s Pet.
Did you over-perform and battle perfection when you were younger? Did you do exactly as you were told and even finish early? That was me! I figured if the teacher assigned something, I needed to hop on the perfection wagon. Life seemed so much easier for me if you just complied, do as you are told and more importantly go above and beyond. Another major reason I overperformed, criticism seemed especially hard on me. Remember, I liked being in the background, therefore, staying on course and not being criticized were forms of survival to me which is a story for another time – I apparently have a lot of stories for “another time.”
As we do, when we become older (wiser), we analyze our past. Was my approach actually easier? The stress of being perfect all the time took its toll though I didn’t recognize it at the time. Beating deadlines by three weeks had its consequences. Was this “Teacher’s Pet” chasing kudos? Was she pleasing others or herself? Whose expectations was she meeting anyway? And did anyone else really care?
I always assumed exceeding expectations was going to be the best approach throughout life. I didn’t label my actions or thoughts as “perfect.” I didn’t run around saying I was perfect. Was I acting perfect? As I aged, I heard the word more and compared my actions to it. In many cases, I was exceeding in some areas – was that a perfection chaser? I would hear that perfection wasn’t attainable. Wait…hold the press…perfection wasn’t attainable? Nobody is perfect? Was I in that category? WHAT??? Was the fact that I was simply trying to be the best at every single thing that touched my life considered perfect? Deep down, I knew it wasn’t healthy or expected. Perhaps I was addicted to the feelings the perfection chase brought.
When I became an adult, I continued the “Teacher’s Pet” practice. I got really good at it as we do with most things we repeat over and over which includes healthy or unhealthy habits…we are good at habits. I went above and beyond at every job, in my private life, and in public. I worked hard to make sure that everything “looked” perfect all of the time! It was exhausting.
When I joined the cast of Coach Peggy Real Time, we dove into our habit history going way back to childhood. Coach Peggy worked with us to identify what type of characters we were when it came to designing goals and embedding habits. The characters are: The Teacher’s Pet, The Pleaser or The Toddler. In taking a peek at my history, it became very clear that I was, in fact, a Teacher’s Pet. My hyper-focus, dive in approach to goals would take gobs of energy. I would not take on anything I knew I could not nail. And what often happened? I would burn out. More importantly, as I would try to obtain perfection and not give up, I often forgot or neglected other areas of my life.
It took a long time for me to recognize that perfection cannot be achieved or even accept that I was seeking it. Instead of putting so much time into working to achieve “perfection”, it became important for me to believe that putting my best foot (“Yes, baby steps matter,” Coach barks!) forward was the healthiest approach, and I recognize now that no one and nothing is perfect.
Most of the time, I recognize that am trying to please myself. I have realized I hold myself to a higher standard than anyone around me ever would. I know, right! Do you do that, too? I had spent the first five decades of my life thinking and feeling I wasn’t enough. I now realize what matters is identifying a healthy way to approach what I define as a “good job” and how I feel about the outcome. Am I trying to do my best for me or for someone else? What is “my best?” Are other areas of my life suffering as I chase this “A?” I have ugly spots but who doesn’t. Areas of improvement are available to all of us. My imperfections are perfections. I could go on…
I do recognize the behaviors that hover under the label of Teacher’s Pet. I recognize how unhealthy it can be to chase consistent high performance. I accept that some of those traits and behaviors may always be a part of me. I am someone who has always grabbed the bull by the horns when it comes to getting things done. And though the approach, the grab and the ride may not have pretty outcomes every time, at least I am going for the grab. Working on my wellness journey this year has helped me redefine the Teacher’s Pet in me. I may not ride that bull for a long time, every time, but I will always chase it down and hop on!
Christine Marshall Hersom
All Things Wellness, LLC
Check out one of Coach Peggy’s Facebook clips: Story of Perfection