Monday, May 20, 2013

The Pressure to be Perfect


For my first post in a while, something somewhat serious: 
I'm finally able to put into words what caused me to develop panic disorder when I went to college, and it will probably sound silly to some of you. 

I was always, from like kindergarten, labeled as one of the "smart kids." I was in enrichment programs, honors classes/societies/rolls, and just generally recognized for academic achievement. I vividly remember going into the bathroom at school and crying when I got my first B. 

I was decent at a few other things like choir, but school was my identity.

As I'm sure many other kids in my situation realized (as I realize, there are many other kids who put crazy amounts of pressure on themselves to perform academically, my best friends being some of these people) going from being a special smart freakin snowflake in high school to a small fish in the big pond of college and real life can be super hard.

Basically, when I got to college where classes were harder and life in general was harder, I felt like I completely lost my identity. Which basically resulted in daily panic attacks and a general sense of low self-esteem and self-consciousness.

I went from being supremely confident and funny to struggling to make all new friends while keeping up with the impossible academic standards I'd set for myself, as well as not really knowing what I wanted to do "when I grew up." One of my biggest regrets is missing out on a lot of normal college experiences because my anxiety was so high.

I think the transition from high school to college can be an incredibly disillusioning experience for a lot of people, and it isn't until now, after just finishing my junior year of college, that I can somewhat put it into words.
Allow me to lighten the mood with some Community 

I'm not all better, and I'll probably have anxiety issues for a long time, but figuring out what I want to do as a career helped a lot. So did finding out that I wasn't alone and that other people had experienced the same kind of stressful identity crisis post-high school after being perfectionist students. Hopefully when I'm an English teacher I can help my students create healthier expectations for themselves and avoid the same honors student anxiety freakout that I experienced.

Being so type A about school did help me in a lot of ways. I'm very driven and hard-working, and doing well in high school is the only way I could afford to be going to a university now. Still, I hope when I have kids I can teach them not to put so much pressure on themselves when it comes to academics. 

I mostly wrote this for myself, because I like to write and putting things into words is kind of therapeutic for me. Also, though, I think that there's an attitude among most people that if you're "smart" or "good at school" that school is easy for you and should be a fairly stress free experience. If any of my followers are in high school now and are someone like me who stresses themselves out to the point of a physical panic attack over doing perfectly on an assignment, basically I'd like them to know that they aren't alone, because I would've liked to know that before my anxiety issues went as far as they did.