Don’t Stress to Impress

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Augie Hawk, Editorials Editor

Our school epitomizes academic and athletic excellence. We certainly like to think so. But that high achievement ferments a potentially harmful—and rarely discussed—culture of competition.

From grade comparison to the loaded question, “what college are you going to?” the pressure leaves most students with an insatiable need to do better even when they’re already doing well. They create an internalized compulsion to constantly compare ourselves to our peers in the classroom, extracurriculars, and sports. The self-comparisons only add to the “pressure cooker” reputation synonymous with the school.

For some, competition and comparison can inspire hard work and personal success. Watching accomplished upperclassmen can push students to take risks in the classroom, playing field, or extracurriculars.

For others, the constant need to do things better than others robs the joy out of high school. The inevitable stress of college applications often perpetuates a desire to join clubs or do extracurricular activities for the sake of resumes, rather than genuine interest.

In order to harness the upsides of pressure, we need to be able to put it into perspective. A culture of competition is only beneficial if we recognize our place within it. Despite an array of talents and abilities, no one at the school is the best at everything. That’s impossible. Trying to compare yourself to success stories won’t help if you try to scrutinize and replicate them exactly. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses—though healthy comparison with the right perspective can inspire you, that doesn’t mean you can or should make exactly the same choices as others.

In short, to compare yourself to something out of your control is a waste of time. You must focus on what you care about and what works best for you.

Once you do activities you truly take an interest in, stress becomes a reflection of how much you care and a helpful motivator to reach new levels in your own exploration.

Many of us already have enough inevitable stress in our lives. Adding more by reaching for unattainable goals, doing things that don’t interest us, or spending too much time talking about school won’t help that problem. Instead, try not talking about such things, and focus on what excites, inspires, and interests you.

Though the school’s pressure-cooker reputation is certainly valid, we must control our reaction toward it. If you keep everything in perspective, ensure that your time is spent on things you care about, and regularly take some time away from stressors in your life, we may all feel less (pressure) cooked all the time.