Take the pressure off!

It was a sunny afternoon and as I walked down the road that led from my classroom to my hostel room, my heart was palpitating and tears were beginning to form in my eyes. The route was a very familiar one as I had walked that path every day for months, but on this particular day, it felt totally different. I had been contemplating making this phone call for a while, but I had not mustered up the courage to do so. “I absolutely need to do this”, I thought within myself as I reached for my phone. Where do I even start from to explain the precarious situation I found myself in?

I was in my final year of undergraduate studies, and as my final examinations dangerously approached, my heart raced. I had also begun to have strange feelings which I could not explain. Just a few days before, as I walked along the road, I felt a strong urge to run into the road as a fast-moving car approached. I knew that was not the solution to the underlying problem, but that seemed to be a quick fix.

How could this be? To many, I had the perfect life: I was the top student in my class at the time, I had a very loving and supportive family – my parents were not wealthy but to a large extent we were comfortable, and they made great sacrifices to ensure we had the necessities of life. My siblings were the best any child could ask for, and we could talk about virtually everything. I was also an executive in my campus fellowship, and I had a cordial relationship with God. Given all these, it was unthinkable for such a silly thought to come to my mind, and I felt no one could relate to my situation.

The phone rang at the other end and in his familiarly jovial way, he called me by my pet name – this broke my heart. I could not even articulate my thoughts. “I’m so sorry, Dad. I am deeply sorry” I busted out between tears. “What is the problem, Darling?”, Dad responded. I could tell he was puzzled because it was sporadic for me to have such outbursts. “I have let you down, Dad. I have disappointed you so badly” I continued…still in tears. At this point, my dad hushed me and made me understand that he has always been proud of me and there was nothing I could do that would make him disappointed with me. He assured me that he loved me dearly and he was eager to know what exactly was wrong so we could think of a way out of it.

I explained to him how overwhelmed I felt with my school work – I spent the day at lectures trying to understand very complex concepts and worked over the night on my project research. I had little time to study, and the workload was accumulating. I could not think of a way out, and as the exams approached, all I could see was how awful my performance was going to be despite putting in my best efforts.

Typically, my dad is a very busy man and perceived by many to be a strict disciplinarian (and he is, but underneath his tough outlook lies a very loving man). Daddy spent the next few minutes explaining to me over the phone that he was proud of me for putting in the effort. He made me understand that regardless of the outcome, he would remain proud of me and that I should never let anyone’s opinion or expectations of me define what I thought of myself and who I became. He invited me home that evening – and together with my mum, we talked things over, and they prayed with me.

It has been several years since this incidence, but I remember it with fondness, and it has been a defining moment for me. The ripple effects of that action I still feel today. This encounter taught me profound lessons that would last a lifetime:

  • Many times, we put undue pressure on ourselves: I felt like a failure because I set very high standards for myself and I imagined that everyone else had such high expectations of me too. I bottled up my emotions because I felt that no one could relate to the feelings I was going through. How wrong I was! It turns out that many people can relate to most situations we encounter in some way; this is because they are also humans and experience the full complements of human emotions. In the rare instance that no human can relate, we can be sure that Jesus Christ knows all about what we are going through. I try to imagine the emotions that Jesus would have felt when He prayed to his Father to let the cup pass over him (Matthew 26:39,41,44). I wonder if He felt like He was letting His Father down when He made that request just as I imagined when I placed the call through to my Dad. We need to take the pressure off ourselves!
  • It is okay sometimes to feel overwhelmed: I think our culture has trained us to internalise certain emotions and that slowly kills us. It is essential for us to know that it is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed in certain situations. Thankfully, we do not have to deal with such emotions on our own. Sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if I never opened up to my parents – thank God I did. My parents used that opportunity to emphasize the need to talk about how I felt and more importantly, to pray about it. In fact, prayer should be the first-line of action. When we feel overwhelmed, there is a tendency for us to want to stay as far away from God as possible, but this is counter-productive. It is during these times that we need to learn to trust God even more.
  • Failure is an integral part of life and success: In life, we win sometimes…and other times, we fail learn. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson. In my case, I did not do exceptionally well in my exams, but I decently scaled through all the courses I did. Over time, I have realized that there would always be those times when despite my best efforts, things do not go on as planned. I don’t beat myself up during these times. I have learnt to give myself the freedom to make mistakes and turn my mistakes to excellent learning opportunities.
  • Never compare yourself with anyone: I feel like this is a critical point that I need to add. You must define success in your own terms and let that be your standard. You must never let the society or those around you to define success to you. Healthy competition is when you compete against yourself while striving to be better than you were the previous day.
  • God’s love for us is constant: We can feel confident to talk to God about whatever situation we find ourselves in because as a Father, His love for us is unchangeable. There is nothing we can never do to make Him love us any more or less. This should give us the confidence to boldly come to Him and freely discuss whatever weighs us down.

I really hope you can relate to my experience and that this inspires you to take the pressure off yourself…



Categories: My lifestyle

12 replies

  1. Beautifully written article Pearl. It is amazing how the pressure we put on ourselves comes from a deeper fear of the loss of love and support. I love how your dad affirmed and proved the constancy of his love for you, reminds me of God’s love for us. Such an encouraging read!! God bless you.

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    • Thanks for your kind words, Ola. I am glad that you can ver well relate to this piece. Like you rightly said, the self-inflicted pressure is borne out of a “deeper fear of loss of love and support”. Thank God that He is a loving Father and daily He reaffirms His love for us in ways to beautiful to describe. I am glad you are encouraged by this. Thanks for dropping such an insightful comment. Blessings!

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  2. True’ and timely’

    thanks for this piece ma’am, greatly inspiring’

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  3. It’s amazing how you were able to capture everything that the theme of this article is about in one piece. There is absolutely no need for pressure, one step at a time and then the need to surround one’s self with the right people to be of encouragement to one like your dad was then. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    • Awww… Thanks for your kind compliment, Sis. That’s right… Having a solid support system is very important. I imagine how many people go through the same emotions I went through everyday particularly those without people to encourage them and point them in the right direction. Like you pointed, there is really no need for the pressure we sometimes put ourselves through…

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  4. Wow!…I love reading this piece…
    I read recently that sonship is: “I messed up, let me call my father” while religion is: “I messed up, my father will kill me”, this piece reinforced that message. Champions have that trouble to stay top and is best if we can stay top but it must not be by all means, that’s the human part of us. Sometimes it’s best we embrace that unacceptable lightness of being ourselves against other people’s standards and expectations:

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    • Awwwww. I’m so delighted that you enjoyed reading this piece ☺️ and I love your analogy of the difference between sonship and religion. You are totally right: we have to give ourselves the opportunity to fail and to use our setbacks as setups for comebacks. We need to get rid of external pressures (and I think most of these exist only in our own minds).

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  5. Thanks Pearl for this beautiful read. Many a time, we tend to judge and condemn ourselves for not being good enough- partly due to the mistakes we made or due to the fact that we failed out at certain things.
    However, the part that struck me most was where u wrote ‘ I have learnt to give myself the freedom to make mistakes and turn my mistakes to excellent learning opportunities’ – rather than condemning myself.

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    • You are absolutely right, Opeyemi. In my opinion, nothing prepares us better for success than our failures; so failures are really important. When we make mistakes, we must learn the lessons quickly and rise above the situation… We should also remember that we are human and every human being is prone to mistakes… 💯 This helps us to take that pressure off.

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  6. Wow!!! Such an amazing piece!
    Thank you very much my mentor and teacher.This piece has been very mind-blowing and educative. It has really encouraged me and taught me not to measure my success by other people’s standard but rather by my own terms.
    God richly bless you.

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    • I am glad you learnt such an important lesson from this piece. It brings me so much fulfillment to watch you grow into an accomplished scientist (more like gentleman actually, in the rare event that you decide to pursue your interests outside of science). God bless you too.

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