I am a self-proclaimed high achiever. And I’m not alone – my whole family is full of them. We like to get As on tests, a score of 85 or above, be in the top 5 percent of the state or win best speaker at debating club. Personally, I’ve never done debating (I like to avoid confrontation and I always cry when I argue). Instead, just I aim to go to the gym at least once a week, read before bed, shoot one to two films a year, practice violin, drink enough water, get at least 65 percent on my maths test, learn my lines, look after my mental health, eat well, keep my room clean, water my plant, answer my emails, hand in my homework on time, write neatly, wash my hair every two to three days, write blog posts, change the world, and of course get at least eight hours of sleep every night.
I can’t do it all. But we already know this.
I was recently in a situation where I had to give up something in my life in order to maintain my mental health and reduce my stress level. I thought it would be fine. I wasn’t much attached to this thing anyway – in fact I complained about it more than anything, and having less work would be a big weight off my shoulders. But when I sat down and actually thought about what this would mean for me – what impact it would have on my life – I got upset. I didn’t want to give it up. I wanted to do everything. And now that I couldn’t, I didn’t like it. I, Angourie Rice, the overachiever, had finally cracked under pressure. I had given in.
There’s an episode of Parks and Recreation from season 4, when Leslie Knope is running for office. One guy makes a comment about how he won’t vote for her because she’s ‘not the kind of person you could go bowling with.’ Throughout the whole episode, Leslie tries to convince this one guy to like her. Of course, she ends up discovering that she can’t be liked by everyone. How come it takes Leslie Knope only twenty minutes to realise this and I’m still struggling? The point is, just like Leslie Knope, I’ve always wanted people to like me, and of course I know this is impossible. “Doing everything” has been one of the ways (up until now) I’ve tried to please people. I think I need to stop caring so much.
I also think that the reason I want to be the best in everything I do is that I’m passionate. Everything I do, I do because I like. When I like a particular thing, I’m more invested in it, and more committed to doing my best. I don’t necessarily think this bad, I think I just have to learn that being the best isn’t everything.
So, what have we learnt?
- You can’t do everything
- You can’t please everyone
- You can’t always be the best
And sometimes it’s not about that anyway. Sometimes it’s not about doing everything, pleasing everyone and being the best. Sometimes it’s about doing nothing, pleasing no one but yourself and being the worst – bottom of the class, last in the race.
And that’s okay.
Feature Image: Polly Fern is an illustrator and ceramicist based in Norwich, UK. The feature image is a small tile called “I Picked You Flowers”. You can purchase her work here, and visit her instagram here.