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Managing High Self-Expectation: Celebrating Success and Growing from Failure

By Lilyt Nersesyan, Account Coordinator



As a first-generation immigrant determined to make my parents’ journey “worth it,” I often feel as though anything less than perfect would be a disappointment. I set high expectations for myself while giving others grace. This unrealistic expectation for perfection was not set by my parents. It is self-imposed, and many students experience this regardless of their background. People tend to be harder on themselves than anyone else would ever be on them. Understanding how to manage high self-expectation is crucial for maintaining good mental health and preventing burnout.

What steps can you take to manage these expectations? Here are two goals to work toward:

Celebrate Your Successes

When the level of expectation you give yourself is set at perfection, it’s easy to forget to celebrate your wins. You may think that anything less would have been unacceptable therefore, there really is no reason to celebrate. This mentality does not allow you to give yourself the acknowledgment you deserve for your successes.

So, when you ace that test you spent hours studying for or land that awesome job or interview, be proud of yourself! Don’t brush off your successes with an “Oh, it’s no big deal.” I challenge you to take a step back and reflect on everything you have accomplished in the last two years. Don’t think about what could have been or what you would change if you could; think about what went well. Think about your successes, big and small. Be as excited about your own successes as you are for those of family and friends.

Give Yourself the Same Grace You Would Give to Others

A friend of mine recently told me she had to quit a club she really enjoyed because she simply did not have the time for it. As she criticized herself for not making it work, I told her that I was proud of her, that taking a step back and removing something off your own plate when you realize it’s too full is not an easy thing to do. As I said this, I knew I would have felt the same way if I were in her shoes. I would have asked myself why I wasn’t capable of managing it all and I would be disappointed in myself for quitting. This kind of self-criticism is a slippery slope. When you mess up, whether that mistake is big or small, take a step back and think of what you would tell a friend if they were in your situation. Chances are, you would be a lot more understanding. Don’t forget to give yourself the same kindness and grace—you deserve it. Allow yourself to grow from your failures, rather than let them hinder your perception of who you are and what you are capable of.

As we begin to think about navigating post-undergrad life, it can often feel as though the pressure on our shoulders will be everlasting. Remember that you can strive for your best without punishing yourself for your not-so-best. I’m cheering for you, and you should be too.

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