Self-imposed Pressure


Pressure. Some people thrive off it, some people struggle. Before I start this post, I’d just like to make it clear what kind of pressure I’m referring to. I’m not talking about the kind of pressure created by leaving assignments until the last minute to complete. I’ve never been one of those people and the thought of doing that stresses me out in itself. What I’m talking about is the internal standards we set for ourselves, whether it be to get certain grades, get a promotion at work, stick to a 5 year life plan or just hold yourself to a higher standard.

Personally, I hold my self to a ridiculously high standard and that’s something I’ve tried to work on for a while. I think the best example of this is my grades. I have always got consistently high grades and get so disappointed with myself when they slip. I’ve really had to work for my grades. In high school I had to do extra work, but now I know that’s because I was actually dyslexic and didn’t have support. I coped better in A-levels and in my undergraduate degree and I’m doing even better on me legal vocational course. Despite this, I’m never really content. I always want to get better marks. 

Now some of you may be thinking that this is a good thing, I mean usually its the case that people don’t have motivation, not too much right? Well yeah being pro-active is great, but its a case of the extent you push yourself. If you push yourself too hard, its not healthy. I think, if I’m being honest sometimes, I do push it to the extreme. I’m quite a half-empty kind of person, even though I really wish I wasn’t. I used have an issue admitting that, seeing even this as a defeat against my perfectionist ideals, but its nothing to be ashamed of or wrong with this, just a way in which people process situations internally. But you need to keep it in check. Like someone half-full mindset having the potential to wear ‘rose-tinted glasses’ and refuse to see the situation how it really is, being half-empty also has its issues. I will completely ignore what I’ve achieved, and instead focus on what I got wrong. Be that a question I got wrong or lost marks on or a blog post I didn’t do as well as I wanted to, I look for things I didn’t do rather than what I have. While this might help me to constantly improve, the pressure it puts on me is enormous.

By overlooking my achievements and focusing on mistakes, I set my standards so high, possibly unrealistically high. At my worst, I’m never happy with my performance, and loose sight of the overall picture. I forget during the stressful times of assessments that I do law because I absolutely love it. At the end of last year and a bit into January, I even forget why I loved blogging and got caught up in a perfectionist vicious circle, focusing on follower numbers and page views. I became incredibly low and felt like if I couldn’t do something completely perfect, there was no point doing it at all. I had lost all motivation to do the things I cared most about. As I said at the start, some people thrive from this pressure, and generally I do too when its an external source. However, when I personally hold myself to this ridiculously high standard, its a recipe for disaster. The pressure of having to perform better, actually has the reverse effect. And then when you realise you haven’t performed, you feel even worse. It’s a vicious circle and one that is exceptionally hard to break. 

What makes it hard is that its self-imposed. Nobody is making you apply this pressure to yourself. Nobody is telling you need to work to this standard. In fact, chances are people actually tell you you put yourself under too much pressure. But 9 times out of 10 you will think that its because of people’s expectations that your thinking like this in the first place and your scared to disappoint them. For me, half of the battle was forgetting what other people thought and focusing on what I want and what makes me happy. Pretty simple right? No. It’s hard when its you who is your own worst enemy

Now that I have successfully broken my circle, all of my stress over small things seems very trivial and daft, but I bet a lot of you have put off trying something new, maybe even just karaoke on a night out, because you were scared you wouldn’t be any good. A minor example maybe, but its exactly the same theory. You didn’t do something because you didn’t think you were good enough, and not because you weren’t interested. Nothing should be about minor things which don’t effect the bigger picture. The bigger picture should always be how you feel about it and what you want. Ambition and determination are such sort-after qualities, but take them to the extreme and they can be self-destructive. Nothing is worth risking your happiness.

I didn’t intend this post to be some kind of public therapy session. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time and a major part of that is being able to conquer this self-imposed pressure I place myself under. I just wanted to highlight why you should look at the overall picture, and try not to get to caught up in little things that won’t change a lot. I am nowhere near as bad as I used to be, and its not destructive at all. But I do have to keep myself in check and that’s one achievement I won’t ignore.

Do you suffer from self-imposed pressure? How do you keep yourself in check?