A couple months ago, I had the opportunity to interview three mental health counselors who work for BYU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). They collectively agreed that one of the most common reasons students struggle with anxiety and depression is due to pressure of achieving perfection in a highly stressful environment.
The pressure can stem from sources like expectations from family members, comparisons among friends and classmates, the heavily concentrated Church culture and perhaps most of all ourselves.
I attended a fireside last semester where one of the speakers introduced a thought that struck me deeply. He projected a photo of when he was a toddler and invited us to remember the time when we were the same age. He then asked, “Could you ever imagine tearing down that young child?” I knew I couldn’t, but then the speaker pointed out that every time we beat ourselves up, we’re essentially hurting that young child we once were.
I’ve often beaten myself up over failing to keep up with what I believed to be the standard timeline of a young adult at BYU. In the course of my five years here, I’ve seen friends leave on missions, graduate, further their education, start their careers and get married. I’m genuinely happy for their accomplishments, but sometimes it’s hard not to compare and feel a little behind on the clock.
Relief from that pressure comes in accepting the truth that everyone operates on different timelines. No one is behind or ahead—we’re all just pursuing our own paths. Knowing this can tear down the critic within ourselves and uplift the young child. Perfection may seem far out of reach, but as long as we’re putting in our efforts and heading in a good direction, we can be confident that we’re in the right place.
Universe Senior Reporter