The Fear of Under-succeeding

By Frannie Rosen

Today’s obsession with the internet and social media has resulted in each generation being increasingly competitive with one another. The constant comparison of each other's lives has seeped its way through society, whether it’s about wealth, appearance, or accomplishments. The anxiety that results persists in the back of people's minds as they worry that they're not good enough -- a worry that students are all too familiar with. This fear of under succeeding is especially present in areas with students of high performance, such as the B-CC community. It is no longer enough to have perfect, or near perfect, grades; in addition to excellent academics, to be considered “accomplished” you must be involved in anything and everything you can. Thus, a never-ending cycle forms; as students become more “accomplished” each year, they only set the bar higher for the younger classes.

“[The fear of under succeeding] is further than academics and is propagated by this toxic culture that most high schools have. There’s an idea of if you aren’t these set of ways then you are [considered] less than,” said junior JD Gorman. Gorman is an active member of B-CC TV, partakes in SGA, the swim and dive team, Jazz band, symphonic orchestra, MSP, and Youth Creating Change, to name a few. Students like Gorman who have a high level of involvement still feel pressure, however. Spending his time doing so many activities has become a part of who he is. Furthermore, students like Gorman feel a pressure to sustain their widespread involvement, because maintaining it is essential to their identity.

Many student athletes at B-CC can feel the pressure to continue their athletic career beyond high school. This pressure stems from a variety of sources. Some students can thrive from this sort of pressure. Sophomore Grayson O’Marra has been playing lacrosse since third grade and plans to continue her career into college. She agrees that there is competitiveness and comparison throughout the community; however, she sees the culture it creates as a good thing for her. She feels, “sometimes having the competitiveness and comparison pushes me even harder to be a better player.”

The competitiveness among students only increases as high school progresses, with the emergence of the college process as students near their final years in high school. With the current rise in grade inflation, it has become the objective of many students to make themselves stand out in the eyes of college admissions officers -- a “do-it-for-the-resume” mentality. Students may feel the need to take on as many activities as they can in order to pack their resume, whether they enjoy the activities or not.

Another factor that comes into play is family influence, in two different aspects. The first aspect is a student’s parents or guardian. B-CC is in such an urban area and many parents of B-CC students have prosperous careers, often following a high-quality education pathway. It is logical that adults who were able to succeed in high school and in competitive colleges would expect the same of their children. Whether parents put a burden on their children to succeed directly or indirectly, it is hard for children to shake their natural instinct to make their parents proud. On the other hand, if parents feel as though their child did not live up to their potential as a student, that is a whole other pressure a child might face. To succeed in ways their parents only dreamed they could have been. The second aspect of familial pressure comes from one’s siblings. No matter where one falls in the lineup of their family, siblings can always influence the need one feels to be successful. The oldest might feel a need to set a good example for their younger siblings, whereas the youngest could have the desire to grow beyond the shadow of their older siblings. the middle child might just wish to stand out amongst them.

In any situation, it is clear that students are plagued by both internal and external pressures. Extra-curriculars, which one had the purpose to provide a source of enjoyment, are more frequently becoming simply resume material.

Graphic by Molly Busis

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