It got me thinking. That recent New York Times article by Frank Bruni (April 11, 2015). …teenage suicides in Palo Alto, California…pressures to succeed among young people…Center for Disease Control data showing an increase in suicides among young people between ages 10 and 24 in 2013 .
An underlying factor implied in these tragic events was overachievement pressure for some high school students in California . But is it any different in other cities, schools, and homes – where the carrot of the golden idol of material and scholastic success is dangled by ambitious families who pass perfectionistic attitudes and pressures on to their offspring?
Suicide has many complex underlying dynamics and triggers. Individuals besides teenagers tragically end their lives. Many people live chronically with depression and anxiety – including performance anxiety. This is complex. It can be treated.
But is the golden idol of success a driving force behind the pressures that urges high standards as equivalent to perfection? I believe achievement-anxiety contributes mightily. I have seen this dynamic in many of the individuals from various occupations (business, academia, the arts, public speakers, sports) whom I treat for performance anxiety.
“Perfection” is striven for at all emotional costs. A high price for this impossible pursuit is diminished appreciation for intrinsic competence and enjoyment. Omnipotence is the goal. The quest for perfection can result in anxiety and depression which become paralyzing emotional companions– not as tragic and dramatic as suicide, but severely life-altering and self-esteem diminishing nevertheless.
It is not how many awards you win, how high your salary, how impressive your title and graduate school, but how you find pleasure in reaching goals every day. Pleasure is an internal reward that money, status, and prestige cannot buy. High self-esteem is an antidote for perfection- pressure and performance anxiety.
Your thoughts on performance anxiety and perfection are welcome. Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org