I wonder if Queen wrote that knowing they were predicting my life?…
There is pressure e v e r y w h e r e. Pressure to look perfect 24/7. Pressure to act perfect 24/7. Pressure to get 100% in every exam and piece of coursework, ever. Pressure to be in a stable relationship. Pressure to be happy. Pressure to smile. Pressure to laugh. Pressure to dress a certain way (all I want is to be able to wear my pyjamas out in public without judgement, okay…). Pressure to attend social events. Pressure to buy certain things. Pressure to vote certain ways. Pressure to read. Pressure to write. Pressure to get everything right. I think, what I’m trying to say is, we are surrounded, engulfed and swallowed-whole by pressure.
And, I’m pretty sure it’s not just me who feels this… You have no doubt had to deal with times where you ‘felt’ the pressure was too much. You may have had times when you just wanted to walk away from things and not deal with them. Or times when you just didn’t know how you were going to make it through everything.
But, actually, what you may not realise (I literally realised today lol) is the pressure you feel… the pressure to be the best… the pressure to do it all.. the pressure to achieve more because you feel guilty that you haven’t accomplished more… is self-inflicted. Yep, you heard (well, read) me right, SELF-inflicted. As in, we inflict it on ourselves (a lot of it, anyway).
As someone who struggles with the idea that everything I say, or do, or think, has to be perfect, I will automatically place pressure on myself (a bit like a weight that drags me down), in almost every situation. Throughout my academic career so far, I have found it so difficult to be happy with my work unless I have achieved 100%. I am only proud of my work when I have achieved 100%.
This is ridiculous for a number of reasons…
- Firstly, I allow the grade I get to determine my sense of self worth and value and so, undoubtedly, when I haven’t achieved the illusive ‘perfect’ score I beat myself up for the failure… There must be something inherently wrong with me… I didn’t do enough work. Why did I sleep the night before the submission date? Why did I not spend every waking moment revising? The torrent of self-criticism is endless.
- Secondly, there is no one else who is particularly bothered by the letter or number assigned to each piece of work I do. My parents and family have almost incessantly repeated to me that it DOES NOT matter because all they care about is my health and happiness. My lecturers at university are not bothered about whether or not I have got 100% in every piece of work I have submitted (if I get a 1st I’m sure they’ll be pleased but 100%… it doesn’t bother them). My future employer will not care about the assignment I did in first year which only got 96.8%, they want to know whether I passed my degree and what non-academic qualities I can bring to their company… if I didn’t achieve 100%, so what?
- And, thirdly, if I get less than 100%, it does not make me a bad person. My friends will not abandon me, in fact, they really won’t care. My parents won’t think any less of me… My employer won’t know, and wouldn’t care even if they did. To be honest, the only person that cares is ME and that is exactly the point, I am placing this intense, detrimental and unnecessary pressure on myself!!
Perfectionism means everything takes longer. You either put in the extra hours, or other things start to slip. Either way, perfectionism breeds pressure and ultimately leads to burnout.
We all make mistakes, we’re only human (as the saying goes). These phrases are clichés for a reason, and yet many of us continue to strive for perfection in our personal, professional and social lives…
And, as with all my rambles, I don’t have an answer to this. But, if there’s one thing I could ask anyone to take from this, it would be, the ability to start noticing the difference between pressure from allll the external stuff (society and media and work), and the internal stuff (yourself). Ask yourself, would I pressurise someone else into attaining this standard or this grade? Would I expect someone else to be nasty to themselves 24/7? Would I expect anyone else to be happy 24/7? And, if the answer is no, maybe start questioning if the pressure is necessary.
In a world where we can be anything, be kind. Be kind to those around you. And, be kind to yourself.