Subject to Change: Self-pressurization comes at the cost of our sanity


Mayukhi Katragadda

Self-pressure places us in a constant state of chasing perfection in our academic pursuits.

Srishreya (Shreya) Arunsaravanakumar, Opinions Editor

Dear Reader,

Picture this: bright-colored papers adorn the hands of DV students. You quickly glance over your friend’s shoulder to see what course titles fill their course selection forms. “AP” boldly precedes every selected course on the bottom. Your eyes widen in fear – OH NO! You look down at your own paper. You don’t have nearly as many weighted courses on the course selection as them. Suddenly, you don’t feel so good. Sounds familiar? Chances are, you’re the victim of Dougherty’s toxic course selection experiences. Here’s me handing you a box of tissues to wipe your tears from extreme stress away. This is the sign that it’s officially March – meaning another season of dread toward course selection for the next academic year has begun. 

Okay, I know not everyone dreads course selection, but please check your sanity if you do enjoy selecting your school life for the following year. Just kidding. You do you! For me, course selection is a symbol of the waning time I have in high school until I get hurled into college. More than that, the pressure and toxicity that accompanies this experience moves it further up on my list of “Things I Hate.”

Now, if you’re like me, you probably like to stress about what classes you will take as soon as late February comes. These courses aren’t set in stone, but course selection is evidence of time slipping through my fingertips. It’s enough to say I question my course choices. It takes at least five to six times of erasing and rewriting before I even begin to be slightly satisfied with my choice. “What if I’m not taking enough weighted courses?” “Am I doing enough?” “How many weighted classes is everyone else taking?” 

There’s not a single thing we as students don’t overthink, and course selection is no different: asking class alumni for advice, checking the AP/honors class website…all of it is part of the yearly ritual of anxiety-filled pondering. I purposefully refrain from discussing course selection with my peers until the day the form is due. This way I can ensure I’m not interfering with their course choices and their selection doesn’t interfere with mine. 

We feel the societal pressure to fit into a certain standard of perfection: perfect grades, perfect GPAs and perfect classes. But I’m not here to tell you that everything will be alright even if you don’t take nine APs, take five honors classes and aren’t the president of eight different DV clubs; I know you wouldn’t listen to me even if I did. 

In late February, I was sitting in the counselor course selection presentation. I sat there, staring at the screen with long bars on graphs for questions students had answered in a wellness survey. The most prominent bar read “self.” Turns out, the biggest reason for Dougherty Valley students’ stress is themselves. However, we have to realize that this type of self-pressure still originates from some outside influences.

Here’s the million-dollar question: who is to blame for this type of society of all-or-nothing we live in today? The answer is not black-and-white. Family expectations, the ambitious goals we students set for ourselves and the demands placed on us by educators can create the perfect potion to overwhelm high schoolers. While most credit self-pressure to particular surroundings, the reason differs from person to person. Truth is, we all lead completely different lives. Self-inflicted stress can result from needing to function in a competitive environment. When we feel that we’re not “good enough,” it’s human nature to feel the need to adapt to the situation.

While it may be hard to pinpoint the exact source of self-imposed pressure, it’s easier to discuss how we can battle it. We have to realize that this is not normal. It feels like a world where everything isn’t competitive is impossible.

The biggest challenge for me has been setting practical expectations. With course selection, it’s been hard to separate what courses I love but are challenging and what courses are influenced by pressure I put on myself. Can I handle this? If I went to a school where nobody cared about APs and the pressure of getting into a good college didn’t exist, would I still be taking this class? Yes, I want to academically push myself – but not to a point where school makes up my entire life.

A hard lesson I’ve learned this past year is that not everyone shares the same strengths and weaknesses, even if they’re in my same classes. The grass always seems greener on the other side. Yes, the girl that sits next to you in precalculus class might be taking a fully-weighted class load next year. Yes, your best friend’s brother is doing internships that will look amazing on his college applications. It’s so easy to get caught up in this whirlwind. But you possess a skill that nobody else has, so discover and work on it because you’re your own person. I’ve been working on setting my strength apart from others the most. When you find this, you can only become closer to freeing yourself from self-imposed pressure. 

Best wishes, 

Shreya Arun