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I keep raising expectations of myself, help!

So I'm starting year 8 tomorrow and I have got at least 7 A's on my report. It sounds good right? Not for me. Ever since year 5/6 I've been struggling to reach the expectations that I have set out for myself and the problem is, I've reached them but I only keep 'raising the bar' for myself and it's tiring trying to maintain my 'nearly perfect' grades. Not only that, my parents and teachers are all counting on me to do well on tests and assignment.

I work so hard, homework and assignments are all I think about and studying has literally consumed my life, in fact, I actually feel empty if i'm not doing anything productive or at least something to do with school. I start to feel lazy and slack.


The fear of falling behind and getting lower grades is overpowering and adds to my 'work anxiety'. Who do I talk to? What do I do? How do I decrease stress?!


Re: I keep raising expectations of myself, help!

Hey @heyitsbea, welcome to RO! It's really brave of you to talk about what you've been going through recently Heart  From what you've described, i don't blame you for feeling overwhelmed, especially as everyone else seems to have high expectations for you as well.
Sometimes it can be really hard to be gentle with ourselves when it comes to school and study, particularly when we feel we have to consistently perform at our best! As much as we'd like to always meet our own standards, we're only human and sometimes fall short. 


I was wondering if your school had a counsellor you could talk to? They might have some advice for you for dealing with school stress and managing expectations Heart Would you want to talk to your parents and teachers about the additional pressure they're putting on you by expecting you to do well?  

I know when you're worried and stressed about study, you can feel a lot of guilt when you're not working. That being said, often having a break to relax, have fun, or engage in hobbies actually increases your productivity. It's hard to constantly study when you're burnt out and feel empty! Heart 

I hope everything goes okay on your first day back! Please let us know how it goes it you'd like xx Heart 

We had a live chat on Accessing Mental Health Support Online! Smiley Very Happy Check it out here! Heart

Re: I keep raising expectations of myself, help!

Hey @heyitsbea, I understand completely what you're going through. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself and always strove for perfection. Try not to worry about others' (teachers and parents) expectations, as the ones for yourself are always harder to live up to. It's great that you're driven, but it can be exhausting and stressful. What I did was try and put those qualities into a more enjoyable, relaxing activity - for me it was piano, drawing and reading. It still feels like an accomplishment - you're building skills!! - but it's not being graded, can de-stress you and is fun. Maybe try something like that? Hopefully it helps!


Re: I keep raising expectations of myself, help!

Hi @heyitsbea, welcome to the forums! This is a pretty long post so just a heads up Smiley LOL


When you said "I actually feel empty if i'm not doing anything productive"... yeah, I get ya completely. Honestly, I'm 18 and I still feel that regularly; it can be tough and pretty exhausting trying to 'prove yourself' to you and to others all the time. You know what though, it's great that you've noticed that you're becoming stressed, have figured out why that is and have even decided to reach out! That shows you're quite self-aware and insightful, which is pretty cool. The other guys have already given some fantastic advice, especially about who to talk to, but here's some more Smiley Very Happy 



Before I go on, know that there's absolutely nothing wrong with having high expectations and an ongoing need to be productive. It's just about finding healthy ways to channel that energy. Smiley Happy


The first and most important thing to remember is this: Taking care of yourself is your number one priority. You can't drive a car forever without stopping, you need to fuel up some time! Same with us. On ReachOut, we call that self-care -- and it's really easy. It's about making sure you get enough sleep, eat properly and intentionally set aside time where you're allowed to relax and have fun (i.e. draw, read, shop with friends, swim, listen to music etc). It may not look productive, but it is -- remember, a car wouldn't work if you don't put fuel in it, which makes refuelling a pretty important use of your time. Smiley Tongue This thread [click me] goes into self-care in more detail.


Here's an activity you could try. Grab a large piece of paper and write down everything that you like about you, and what makes you feel valued. Do that before you read the next part of this paragraph. Done it yet? Smiley Tongue Now, take a second look at that piece of paper. What sort of things did you write about? Have you written about what you do, or who you are? Think about it, which of those is more important? Your worth is tied up in the unique, one-of-a-kind person you are! If you'd like, you could also ask a friend / family member to write a list of things they like about you. How does your sheet and their sheet differ? You might find that other people value different qualities to you.


Here's a last idea. It sounds like you're naturally a high achiever, yeah? Maybe you could find and take a crack at something that you're normally NOT great at? (i.e. for me, that would be sports.) It may seem a bit weird, but sometimes it can be good to 'fail' at something to just mix things up. Reminding myself that "oh, yeah, there are some things that I can't do, but I put in my best effort, and I'm okay with that" actually helps me to be less critical of myself in other areas of my life, where I keep raising my expectations. When you get down to it, it's the effort that really counts.


Aside, the difficulty curve can get pretty steep around Year 8 because your brain's still growing then, so keep that in mind. I got relatively low grades in Year 7 to Year 9 which was a bit disappointing then, but something clicked in my senior years, and my grades picked up as if nothing happened. It's a learning journey. Smiley Happy


Hope something helps there!

Re: I keep raising expectations of myself, help!

Hey @heyitsbea,


Sorry to hear you're feeling overwhelmed by your expectations. It's good that you seem to be doing well in school by most people's standards, but sometimes we and others can hold ourselves to an unfair standard that we feel we can't keep to, which is hurtful.


You say your parents and teachers are all counting on you to do well. Could you please tell us if that's something they've said to you directly, or if it's more of a vibe you get from them? Regardless, do you think it might help if you could speak to them about how the expectations you're feeling are hurting you? It's okay if that sounds too intimidating or that it otherwise wouldn't help; perhaps there's a school counsellor you could talk to about how you're feeling.


Also, do you think you know why you get these feelings of emptiness if you aren't doing something 'productive'? Maybe it could help you work through these feelings if you can identify why you get this feeling, as you could then start to work on addressing the cause.


At any rate, it sounds like you're a very conscientious person (which is a good thing), but we don't want you to feel bad if you're not being productive all the time, especially if it's taking a toll on your wellbeing. Hopefully, you can get to a place where you can feel good about your hard work, rather than feeling you haven't done enough. I hope your first day went well, and good luck this term.