By Eliana Horowitz
Everyone has always told me that I am way too hard on myself. I think too much, I put too much pressure on myself. I would be lying if I said this wasn’t somewhat true. I have always wanted to do and be the best at everything I am involved in - academics, athletics, and student groups. I make it difficult for myself to do that, though, because I play three sports, take some difficult classes, and I’m in many student organizations. It can be overwhelming sometimes, there’s no doubt. But it is what makes me, me. My passion for my activities fuels my fire and the responsibility that I have to them makes me feel like I am contributing to my community and to bettering myself. However, I have only learned that recently. When I was younger, I was much more uptight and upset when I was unable to achieve the way that I deemed acceptable.
When I was in middle school up until about ninth grade, I would cry about any mistake I made. I am a crier, plain and simple. I cry when I am angry, frustrated, sad, or happy. Basically, any strong emotion can bring tears to my eyes. I’m not ashamed of that by any means, but I used to let it get in the way of performing on the court or field. Almost every time I was up to bat and struck out, tears sprang to my eyes as I walked back to the dugout. When I made an error at shortstop, I wouldn’t stop being able to think about it the entire game. When I missed a shot in basketball, I would be afraid to take another one. There was one particular moment that snapped me out of this trend of self-loathing.
"It took a while to teach myself and to remind myself that mistakes are a part of the game. They’re a part of learning and growing."
It was my freshman year and I was practicing with the Varsity Volleyball Team. It wasn’t my best day, at school or at practice. We were practicing digging and converting a good pass to offense. There was one ball that I tried to dig and completely shanked it. And back then, I couldn’t brush my mistakes off. Tears started to well up. I tried to control it and move on, but I was frustrated. I felt like I couldn’t get anything right. My volleyball coach, Jen, looked at me and said, “Eliana you are going to need to get it together. If you don’t, I am going to take you out of the entire drill.” Take me out of the drill? Um, no! There was no way I was going to let her take me out of the drill. I needed to show those varsity girls what I was made of. Take me out? That would be the ultimate failure.
Now to you guys, what my coach said to me that day might not sound like a big deal. But the way she said it to me, I could tell it was the last straw. She was done with my tears, and my anger every time I made the slightest mistake. They were holding me back. It is really difficult to play a continuous game of volleyball when you have tears in your eyes, thinking about the mistake you just made. In fact, it’s almost impossible. That day really helped me change my perspective and my mentality when approaching both sports and academics. The change didn’t happen overnight. It took a while to teach myself and to remind myself that mistakes are a part of the game. They’re a part of learning and growing.
"We aren’t alone in our journey. We have amazing teachers and coaches who are there for us, not only to learn from, but to lean on."
The same concept can be applied to academics. I have always held myself to a high standard in all my classes. Taking the hardest courses and trying to maintain the best grades in them. When I was a freshman and even a sophomore, one bad grade felt like the end all be all to my success in a class. But it wasn’t. Aside from the fact that one test grade doesn’t affect your grade as much as it might feel like it does, putting that stress on yourself to never slip up is too exhausting.
Sometimes decisions have to be made that you may not like. After a long game, I would have to choose between devoting my time to a chemistry test or a math test. And sometimes, one of those grades would suffer. When it comes to academics, especially at our school, we are privileged to have teachers that truly care about us and understand the stresses that we are facing. In chemistry, Mrs. McMichens could always tell when I was overwhelmed or upset about how a test went. She called herself a “benevolent dictator,” reminding me that she wouldn’t let me fail, that she had my back. We have to remember that we aren’t alone in our journey through high school. We have amazing teachers and coaches who are there for us, not only to learn from, but to lean on.
It is completely normal to be holding ourselves to a higher standard. We feel the need to be performing at our best in all aspects of our life to be happy and to get into college. I mean for most of us, that is the goal, right? But being so hard on yourself that the activities that you do for fun are stressful and draining only hurts you. There has to be a balance between pushing yourself to be the best you can be and having unrealistic expectations.
"Embrace mistakes. Learn and grow from them, but don’t let them overwhelm you and bring you down. Find the little wins every day because there are always accomplishments to be proud of."
What I do when I feel like my world seems to be collapsing around me, when I am overwhelmed and stressed, is to remind myself of the little wins. Maybe my volleyball team lost a tough match in five sets. But I know that I had an important dig that turned into a perfect downball that helped us score a point, or I had a good set that let my teammate hit the ball in a perfect spot. Perhaps I didn’t get the grade that I wanted to on my chemistry test, but the question about a concept that I had been confused on for the whole unit was one that I got correct, or I know that that specific test was more difficult, and I am happy with my effort and the time that I put in to get the grade I got. Looking for little wins in what feels like bigger losses is key to keeping your head above water in high school, especially if your schedule is so crowded.
I am still hard on myself. I still get frustrated when I feel like I didn’t reach the level that I felt like I could. I am a huge perfectionist, that is just a part of my personality. What I have learned is how to continue to move forward when I feel insubordinate. I have learned that mistakes are okay, that they are how we grow. I am still a crier, even though sometimes I wish I wasn’t, but when I am playing my sports I am focused on the moment I am in. I can’t be focused on the past. I have to be focused on what is in front of me. And I can cry after if I need to. I find the little victories, the small successes every day, whether I consider that day to be a success or a failure. I want you, my classmates, to embrace mistakes as well. Learn and grow from them, but don’t let them overwhelm you and bring you down. Find the little wins every day because there are always accomplishments to be proud of. Sometimes it can be really hard to be the person who is “glass half full” instead of “glass half empty.” But if we do that, we will be so much happier. I know that I am. I still have so much more to learn, and I still have so much more life ahead of me. I will always strive for perfection, many of us will, but like Vince Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”