To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Thoughts on over-achievement and expectations

I constantly put way too much pressure on myself and somehow, despite always being overwhelmed and anxious, the fact that I complete everything I throw at myself means I will never learn. This might just be a me thing, but it’s something I have grappled with a lot at Brandeis since most people put up an amazing facade of having themselves completely together all of the time. Although I know that this is simply a facade — I mean, none of us are really doing well right now — it’s disheartening nonetheless. The culture of academic success and professional development at Brandeis is terrifying, as it is at so many other schools. I’m not sure if this is a generational problem, where we are all so good at internalizing our struggles and overly sharing our successes through social media, but social media sure as hell doesn’t help. 

Have you been on LinkedIn literally ever? I’m guilty of this myself since everyone else does it and I feel inferior if I don’t, but everyone is just absolutely bragging about every aspect of their lives on that platform. Get a job? Post about your success. Get rejected from a job or twenty? Post about how this somehow doesn’t make you want to shrivel up and work in the food service industry for the rest of your life. 

This type of one-upping has infiltrated everyone’s lives. I’d like to think my passion for success is self-driven, but I’m not so sure anymore. Maybe my anxiety has been worsened and perpetuated by the need to prove to everyone else that I too am worthy of their time and energy because I got an internship, or because I got a research grant, or because I have a job lined up after college or got into a top graduate program. My drive to somehow meet the sky high expectations I’ve made for myself due to these outside pressures has tainted everything I have enjoyed. If I do something, I have to be good at it. I can’t do something just because I like it anymore. If I can’t show a product of my efforts to someone, or feel some type of accomplishment outside of myself alone, it feels pointless. This is insanely depressing, I know. It’s like I have zero hobbies besides studying for the LSAT and talking about studying for the LSAT. 

Even my work here at The Hoot has unfortunately become a place where I expect too much of myself. I would pick up articles I didn’t really have time to write and somehow get them done, and get them done fairly well, while I had significantly less time to relax or GET ACTUAL HOBBIES. I set the expectation for myself to only write what I think of as “serious” articles. You know, articles on world issues, on US politics, on public discourse. Basically, I vowed to write only well-researched opinion pieces on topics that are super upsetting to think about. While these topics are important and need to be discussed, I am the only person telling myself I have to do this, and the expectations are too much at this point. I have clearly given up this goal of “serious” articles, because I needed to. These past few weeks, even though we just finished break, have just been too much for me. 

Getting jobs and planning for the summer and the fall and the future after all of that, on top of the fact that I am having actual medical problems at the moment (outside of the usual!) have made me so insanely run down I can’t write anything this week besides this rambling mess. 

I need to take time for myself. I need to make The Hoot a hobby that I am not stressed about again, and I need to stop putting so much on my plate that I can’t take care of my own well-being anymore. Honestly, everyone needs to do this. Why do we allow the successes of others to make us feel inferior? Why can’t we be happy for another’s success alone and not feel the need to also do something remarkable to put online, or to have your mom brag about on Facebook for you? The culture of success, academic achievement and consequently over-achievement is extremely harmful for those it influences. Stop asking yourself how you can be the best at something, but start asking yourself why. Why do you want to get this job? Why do you want to go into this field of work? Why do you want to write about that topic, or apply for that leadership role, or join that club? 

I need to stop doing everything for everyone else and start doing it for me, I think we all should. 


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