by: ana g. valdes
When I was a child I always put candy back into its place when I knew my parents couldn’t afford it. Putting it back always made me feel like I could buy it later, so I could find it again easily. When I was a tween I always, what’s the word again? I overworked myself. I was always an overachiever. I always felt worthy and seen by my parents when I got good grades or even when I got the note from report cards stating “Ana is a pleasure to have in this class.” That shit felt good. When I got into my teen years, I got the hit of being the first generation kid in my family, like the heart dropping feeling you get when you have a realization about something. I felt alone, I mean, yeah, I had my parents and my friends, but it didn’t make a difference. I felt helpless. I’m a people pleaser. When you’re a people pleaser, you suffer from a lot of self-judgment and criticism. For me, I think it may stem from being the first child born in America from immigrant parents. That puts a lot of pressure onto succeeding. I had so much anxiety about making the wrong decisions because I had so much pressure to succeed. My father never graduated college and my mother left her other life to give it up here, so it was up to me to carry the family into the future.
When I was kid, I kinda always knew my parents were having trouble with money–you know just because I’m a kid doesn’t mean I’m stupid. I always felt bad when my parents bought me something I was eyeing down. I felt like I owed them my entire life for the sacrifices they made for our little family. Since I was a kid, I promised my mom that I will succeed. My mother knew I had a mental health issue. I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was in kindergarten but she didn’t prescribe me any medication until the 3rd grade. Before getting medication, just when I was a little kid developing my identity as a student and realizing the extent of my own intelligence, I remember being put on the yellow card. Everyone knew what the yellow card was– it was for the bad kids. Once I finally got medication, I started doing better and got moved to the green card, the table for the good kids. That made me feel smart and good… But deep down I still thought of myself as stupid, even though I started getting good grades. I started overcompensating for my lack of self worth with getting good grades. I got such good grades all the time, that I remember getting one bad grade in 8th grade and I broke down in tears. As I continued to high school, I stressed myself out. I needed to get good grades for my own academic validation, but also for my parents. My parents moved to America to create a better life for me and my brother and I didn’t want to let them down. I always knew I was different from other kids around me but I didn’t know why. I think that’s why I always forced myself to work and study too much. I burned myself out and never took any breaks throughout my years of middle school and high school academics. I thought in the end it would be worth it- looking back it wasn’t. You know, I tried really hard to work on my mental health and my studies. I had to sacrifice one, guess which one was it?. I had a few teachers who advised me to focus on my mental health. How can students do that but also stay on top of their studies without failing a class? I sacrificed my mental health for my academics. Although, there was a week in which I chose my mental health over school but my grades dropped. My parents never understood what it was like for me to be a teenager and a first generation student in America. I burned myself out for the approval of my parents and teachers. I like the academic validation I got, it made me feel good about myself.
“Let’s remember there is pain in perfectionism. Perfectionism is not something to be laughed off or shrugged off or spoken about as if it were an immature behavior one will grow out of. There are true consequences for unhealthy perfectionists.” This brings out the conversation that people, especially in my generation, are obsessed with the idea of being perfect when it has its own torment. I know people like to romanticize the idea of it; dont.
When i was kid i eavesdropped into a conversation that two people were having, “we are like ballerinas, the breakable ones; break and the others are indefectible, and you will break them.” Now being a child, those words clicked something inside me, i didnt wanna be breakable but I knew I couldn’t be perfect, especially being a woman in today’s society, it’s laughable. Being perfect is ideal, yes but nobody in this reality can be truly perfect, you can act but you will never be.
It’s important for people to understand that you don’t have to be perfect. And you’ve probably heard that sentence all throughout your life. Everyone has their own flaws and their fate that they will meet. It’s perfectly fine to burn yourself out and stress yourself about it.
I’m ana g. valdes for YR Raw. For this commentary and more visit YR dot media.