Through My Spectacles: Under Pressure

Perfection. Everyone says it doesn’t exist, and yet, there are parts within all of us trying to chase after it. That desire, that need to be flawless — it’s there. Every time you step on the scale and pray it reads your goal weight; every time you feel the need to switch outfits after being disappointed by what you see in the mirror; every time you get an essay back without an A plastered in the corner.

I can’t remember when I started to feel the constant pressure of perfection. . . . Maybe it was always there, just quietly sleeping beneath the surface. Pushing me to subtly challenge the preconceived notions people had/have of me. Which means always having to speak properly, dress properly, be intelligent, thoughtful, athletic — do everything, be everything so no one can suspect there are any faults behind what they see.

Or maybe the pressure just amplified when I came to college, and reality started to sink it. I only had four years to figure out what I wanted and who I wanted to become before being thrust into the “real world”. When I realized that my parents had lied to me — I wasn’t unique, I wasn’t special. The proof was all around me: getting 4.0’s, interning at big companies, getting accepted early to medical school.

How was I expected to prove to future employers, to people — to  myself — that I was something? That I was worth taking a chance on when there are millions of people who want the same exact thing as me, and are probably doing a much better job of making sure they get it?

Or maybe it was the fear — the fear of being that girl. The one with all these big hopes and dreams who never lives up to any of it. Who eventually ends up back in the small town where she started.

Either way you spin it, I willingly put that pressure on myself; but more of it came along when people started to expect such a high level of performance from me.

Then with that came the fear of disappointment. You can’t let up because there are now other people,  so many people, depending on you to be at 100 percent at all times.

What happened to the days when people could get by with mediocrity and adequacy? When you didn’t have to master a talent or be some prodigy?

When I was younger I used to play tennis, and I was convinced I was going to be the next Serena Williams. I had the backhand, I had the style and I had the confidence. And then one tournament, I got my ass whooped by this girl. After that she just kept beating me and beating me and beating me. And eventually I realized, I wasn’t some star, I wasn’t some prodigy…I was just good.

And for a while I was alright with just being good, but the USTA rankings and the second place trophies always reminded me: being good isn’t good enough. You have to be great.

And that’s a whole lot of pressure.

But here’s the thing about pressure, it can only be contained for so long before it needs to be released. So that means either expecting less, slowing down or talking to someone about it. Except, if you’re a perfectionist, then doing all or any of those things means admitting you couldn’t handle it — that you’re flawed.

And that’s a very large and hard pill to swallow.

So nothing changes, and the pressure keeps building and building. You can feel it expanding, pressing against the side of your skull. Every time you take a breath and it feels like you’re breathing through a plastic bag.

Eventually one of two things will happen: you will explode or you will break.