By Isabel Vega
I have spent many years talking to my parents about the high levels of stress and anxiety that are plaguing my education. “We just want you to be happy,” they would tell me. “You put so much pressure on yourself.” I know that they have positive intentions when giving this advice — parents want to make it known to their children that they do not need to be perfect and that they will be loved no matter what. However, the phrasing of the statement “on yourself” blames for distress on the child, rather than the culture that truly ignites the flames of anxiety.
This pressure typically starts in high school, when students feel pressured to maintain the highest possible GPA and SAT scores while joining as many extracurriculars as possible, all in the hopes of getting into a competitive college.
By the time the student gets to college, this pressure does not go away. College students are influenced by other people’s expectations of them –– to get an internship, join Greek life, play a sport, get involved in as many clubs as they can, graduate on time and ultimately end up with a successful job.
A study by psychologists Thomas Curran and Andrew Hill called “Perfectionism is Increasing Over Time,” which was published in The American Psychological Association, found that unhealthy perfectionism has surged among young adults, with the biggest increase seen in those who feel pressured by society’s expectations of their success.
This perfectionism is characterized by the need for young adults to appear flawless in every domain, which includes schoolwork, athletics, activities and appearance. Social media has raised the bar in the pursuit of perfection. Young adults hungrily seek the “likes” of their peers, and it is not uncommon for users to delete posts that don’t receive enough likes.
There are many ways we can work to alleviate this stress. Instead of saying, “You put too much pressure on yourself,” one can say, “Everyone is feeling the pressure. Tell me if I can do anything to make things easier.” Most students don’t need much more than empathy to help them relax.
At the end of the day, when it comes to stress and anxiety, students have a lot more in common with each other and with their parents than they may realize. Being able to relate to each other and ending a self-imposed conversation about perfectionism will make a great difference.
Students share opinions around campus
“Do students face too much academic pressure?”