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Opinion: Overcoming the stress of expectations

(Photo by Ailun Shi)

Junior year is arguably the hardest year in high school, and despite being barely one month in, I can say I already feel the pressure. It has nothing to do with classes, and everything to do with my parents. With the PSAT just a few short weeks away, the expectation to do well has risen exponentially with my dad asking at least once a day if I will be able to score well on it.

While the PSAT has nothing to do with the college admissions process, it does start the selection process of the National Merit Scholarship. If my father is this focused on my ability on the PSAT, how much will he expect out of me for the SAT?

I’m not the only one stressing out about meeting expectations.

In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA asked incoming freshmen if they had “felt overwhelmed all [they] had to do” in their senior year of high school, and 18 percent answered that they did.

By 2016, that number had risen to 41 percent. The standards expected from high school students will only continue to rise. From maintaining grades to scoring well on standardized tests to extracurriculars, it’s no wonder that so many students, myself included, are stressing out in trying to meet those expectations.

Perhaps some of the blame is on the increasingly rigorous college applications process, but there is even more to be put on parents and peers. More and more, the emphasis isn’t on how you get from point A to point B; it just matters that you do. As a society, instead of celebrating the experience gained from a process, we have instead condemned it by setting expectations and expecting them to be met as the only standard of success.

The expectations set by others will not cease to exist, but as individuals, it’s possible to lessen their stress-inducing impacts. I’ve taken the time to reduce my stress levels by acknowledging myself on everything that has some sort of high expectation attached.

By acknowledging something I did right and am proud of, even on something I failed on, I am less likely to break down over possible negative future implications. Instead, I am energized and eager to do better next time and learn from my mistakes. It’s not possible to surpass every expectation, but it’s even worse to give up and never try.

The important thing is, as cliche as it sounds, to believe in yourself. Because if you don’t believe in yourself, then who will?

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