Under Pressure

30 Jul

Letterbalm Worried GirlDear LetterBalm: I’m 17 years old and going into my senior year of high school. I get really good grades – I’m on track with advanced placement courses, and everybody tells me I should get a scholarship to a decent school. I have an awesome family and good friends, but sometimes I just feel overwhelmed. I feel worthless if I don’t get 100% on a self-practice test, and I get really down if I think one of my classmates is doing better than I am. And, I’m obsessed with getting to be valedictorian and doing internships and volunteer work so my college application will be strong. Lately, I’ve been sad and crying by myself. I try to keep it inside. Nobody knows any of this, and I’m afraid to say anything because people will think I’m looking for attention or out of control.

–Bottled Up

Oh, my dear girl. You have set such big expectations for yourself, that it’s a wonder you can function at all. You feel that if you’re not perfect, you’re not performing according to strict standards you’ve set for yourself, that you’re not “good enough.” Ms. L.B. says you must take a step back and look at the impossible situation in which you’ve put yourself. If you don’t release some pressure and talk your feelings out with someone you trust, you’re going to explode, and the results won’t be psychologically pretty. You need counseling to establish balance and regain your faith in yourself this year – or your first year at college will be a washout. Can you talk with your parents (or a trusted relative who is more objective and can plead your case to your folks)? If they won’t listen, say something to your school counselor in September. But first, you might say this:

Mom and Dad, I really need your help. I know I come across as having everything together, but I’m a mess. I am sad and crying alone in my room. And, I’m terrified about my grades and getting into a good school. I’ve set such high expectations for myself that I think I’m worthless if I don’t do everything perfectly. I think I’m scared and depressed. Please, before school starts, can we talk with Dr. Smith about finding a therapist, a counselor I can talk to? I really, really need this, and I know I can trust you to help me.

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