Performance anxiety is a word I hear many young women around me, myself included, use very often. Living in a society that is characterized by speed, success and increased individualization it’s not so surprising.
It’s primarily young women who suffer from this type of stress. The experience of high demands and low self-esteem seems to be some of the causes.
I guess most of you have heard about the “good girl”- syndrome? Something I myself can identify with. Which has made me start thinking about the factors behind it. How young girls are characterized the role of being a responsible and caring person. And this starts already in preschool, where they are taught to be calm, nurturing and kind and are often rewarded based on their presentations, which in the long run can lead to difficulty distinguishing their performance from their value as a person.
My own performance anxiety and my need to be a “good girl” has given me many sleepless nights. I can lie in bed all night long, planning and preparing for the upcoming day, since I want to be in control of any situation. I need to be, so that I can do a good job and make everyone around me happy. In social situations, I am often the one who takes responsibility as well. If I see someone sitting by themselves I walk straight over to them and start a conversation. Include them and make them feel seen. In a constant need to make the people around me happy.
Exhausting you might think? Yes, it is…
I remember last year, when I received the results of my exam at the University. It turned out to be far from what I wanted and had hoped for, leaving me with the feeling of being a complete failure. In that moment, I lost myself a little. My mom tried to comfort me, saying it’s ok not to walk out of there with top results when you have a fulltime job on the side, but in my head I only heard one voice: telling me I was useless. I forget all the factors in my life playing a huge role in my performance on this exam. All I could think about was that I didn’t do well enough, I wasn’t good enough. But the results of my exam doesn’t define me as a person, now does it? It doesn’t define more than my performance right then and there, that Saturday in April.
The statement “good girl” sounds negative in many people’s ears, and for good reason. Our need to be on top of our game all the time, achieve everything we set out mind too, be kind, be caring, be the best. I know exactly how it feels. But at the same time, I have started to reflect upon my performance anxiety and see what it has given me; A job where I am appreciated and been given a lot of responsibility. Friendships that are as deep as they are, thanks to all the commitment I have been putting in them. People who feel loved because of my caring nature.
I think it’s time to fight back
I think it’s time to fight back against the negative meaning this statement has been given and instead lift all the talented young women who struggle daily for a better society. Be proud of the high-performance person you are, but never forget that it’s more than okay to fail. I truly wish more people who recognize themselves in this will settle with the fact that: you are not your achievements, you are so much more valid than that <3
This post is contributed by Anja Hertzberg, who works as a preschool educator in Stockholm/ Photo cred