If there is one thing that has caused me heartache in the past, it has been hubris. That is not to say that I am a braggart, but the pressure that I place on myself to succeed in all my endeavors has often led to situations where I am in over my head, but unwilling to admit defeat or ask for help. The idea that I can handle everything myself is one of the factors that has driven me to perform at the top of my game all the time, but soon enough I forget what it is like to take a breath and a step back.

With college application deadlines bearing down on me, I’ve felt the effects of this even more so than before. Not only do I have to balance my schoolwork and my extracurricular responsibilities, but I now must make time for writing essays and filling out forms and coordinating the submission of my application materials. While doable, I have come to believe that the quality of my schoolwork and, more significantly, my applications, is suffering because of the sheer volume of work that I have taken on. And so I did something that I’ve rarely done in the past, I accepted my position and decided to drop one of my responsibilities.

At first I was nervous about the prospect of “giving up”, but the further away I got from that convoluted mentality, the lighter I felt. The pressure that I had been feeling was a totally internal one, but it was predicated on the misguided belief that others would be judging me if I deferred a challenge. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In reality, no one came out of the wood-works to point a finger at my decision; most didn’t even notice the change.

While I still have the desire to push myself to my limits and beyond, overcoming my inherent aversion to saying “no” has been quite a help in my life, and it has led me to cut out much of the fluff that I had been weighing down the activities and responsibilities that I care most about. Being a yes-man is the same as being beholden to others’ desires and beliefs, because it forces your hand each and every time, and takes away the choice that is so necessary to success. So realize, if you haven’t already, that you don’t need to impress anyone else, and you don’t even need to impress yourself, you just need to make yourself happy. If that means stacking up your work until you drop, then go for it (though that isn’t recommended), but if that means removing yourself from a stress inducing situation, then don’t be afraid to make the leap.

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