A Math-Related Meltdown in Front of My Class Changed Me for the Better

I've been told to "embrace my flaws" before, but this was a little extreme!

I'm the oldest of three girls, and like almost every oldest child, I have a Type A personality. This means I strive for perfection no matter what I do. In fact, my grandfather nicknamed me "Miss Perfect."

A young teenage girl journaling on her bed

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One day, attempting to be perfect at everything backfired, because I ended up humiliating myself in a class full of friends (and—most importantly—my crush).

The Incident

I remember it so well. I was in Mrs. White's* math class and that day we were learning about long division.

You know that feeling you get when you're not very confident about something? And when you're put on the spot you start to panic? Yeah, that's what was happening, and it wasn't even a quiz!

As Mrs. White walked around with practice exercises, I started to feel myself get frustrated. Why couldn't I figure this out? Did this make me not as smart as my friends?

Young teen girl frustrated in math class

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The Meltdown

As I glanced over the first problem, I realized that I had no idea what I was doing, and it made me furious—not with the teacher, but with myself.

I wasn't old enough to realize that my fears were a little silly.  All I knew at the time was that Miss Perfect was not living up to her name.

I was angry that I wasn't good at this particular exercise, and if I wasn't good at that, then what else would I be horrible at doing? As I stared at the problem, tears began to well in my eyes, and before I knew it, I was full-on crying. Mrs. White came over and asked what was wrong, and I just blurted out, "I can't do this!"

girl crying in class

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I was a failure. My parents were going to be so disappointed in me, which made even more tears fall down my cheeks.

I know what you're thinking. "Why did something like a math problem make her so upset?"

Well, it had more to do with refusing to admit that I wasn't this all-around perfect girl who could do pretty much anything.

I hit a road block in my young life. I didn't realize it at the time, but that moment was a turning point because it showed me that not everyone is great at everything. There is no such thing as a know-it-all (only people who think they know it all).

The Lesson

Surprisingly, I immediately felt better admitting that I needed help with something. Mrs. White was kind enough to offer extra help on something she knew I was struggling with, yet wanted to complete successfully.

Over time, I became more confident with those math problems, and I was really proud of myself for admitting that I didn't have to be good at everything I did!

A pencil writing out a math problem

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I still laugh to this day thinking about my math class meltdown. I saw Mrs. White recently at our local pool, and I brought up that infamous day.

Would you know it, she had no recollection of my long division debacle. She said to me, "Kelly, do you realize how long I've been teaching, and what I've seen? Helping out a frustrated student is part of my job, so don't ever think you failed at something when all you needed was some help."

You Are Fine Just as You Are

Realizing that we have weaknesses and flaws are a part of life, and every person struggles with something. If we were all good at everything, wouldn't that be boring?

And so, I encourage you to not get down about stuff you aren't "the best at," and instead focus on the great parts that make you you.

Here's the thing: You can't be good at everything, but you absolutely can be great at things you love.

Eventually, I did get over that tear-fest in math class. Just don't make me do long division again.

*Name has been changed.


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