How to Lower the Pressure So You Can Breathe

I wanted to pop in here real quick with a chat about letting yourselves off the damn hook so you can lower the pressure and expectations you put on yourself. 

Lowering pressure and expectations is part of our SLOW model, where we help high achievers reframe the speed in which it takes to get things done.

Slowing down can really help you speed up, but the concept can almost seem like a dirty word to women. And sometimes, it even seems abstract, though that’s why we created a model to make this more concrete.

And I get it, because I created the model for myself. 

The SLOW model stands for:

Step back and reflect

Lower pressure and expectations

Own the now

What’s next?

Today, we’re talking about the L.

I went from being what people called unmotivated and lazy in middle school and high school to someone who graduated with a master’s degree and went on to receive lots of academic distinctions like summa cum laude.

Except here’s the thing: I wasn’t unmotivated or lazy, or more interested in boys than school like everyone told me.

I had undiagnosed ADHD, which caused me to lose huge chunks of time in class, often missing lessons, homework assignments, and dates of upcoming tests. I suffered from short-term working memory issues that accompanied my ADHD.

And because I underperformed in relationship to my potential, I was labeled a troubled kid. Someone who was then treated poorly by teachers, often leading them to call me names, make jokes about me in class, and I even had a teacher sexually harass me.

I didn’t find success in high school until I was able to take some classes that really grabbed my attention, like psychology and political science and economics.

That’s when I started to make honor roll.

But everybody told me it was too late, colleges didn’t want me, and I actually did have to beg and negotiate my way into a local community college.

At that local community college is where I worked day and night for my 4.0 GPA.

As someone with ADHD, school was way harder for me and took me so much more time than it took my classmates.

And that’s really where that high achiever in me – the person who had a lot of anxiety around achievement and getting things done in school – really kind of got ratcheted up.

And that’s why I’m telling you this story, because you might identify with that anxious high achiever.

When I transferred out of community college, I went to a world-renowned research university, and I was able to be admitted to the psychology honors college, where just a handful of peers and myself buckled down to not only take a full load of psych classes, but we also worked in research labs, conducted our own research, and presented it for awards.

And in order to graduate from undergraduate, I had to write a thesis paper – almost like a master’s thesis, but I was an undergrad.

And again, studying hours and hours and hours a day, I never went out in college.

I locked myself in my room, I was taking 21 credits a semester, I was volunteering at different places so it looked good on my resume for when I was going to apply to get my PhD in clinical psychology.

And I was really keyed up, right?

I was really over-functioning.

And I remember meeting with my faculty advisor, Dr. Strausberg, and I was a high-achiever hot mess – anxious, overly detailed, overly prepared, dates mapped out, goals set.

I was walking him through my goals and timelines as to when my project would be complete. He looked at me, and said:

“Tara, you’re the last person I’m worried about getting this done. Whatever your dates say are well beyond any expectation that I have of you, and I trust that this will be completed when it needs to be completed, and you will graduate without any issues.”

And in that moment, the pressure was off.

Dr. Strausberg trusted me to get my work done at a level that would meet expectations in a time frame that was appropriate.

Those two or three sentences that he said to me were the greatest gift.

In that moment, he saw me better than I saw myself. 

He knew me in that moment better than I knew myself.

And he trusted me more than I trusted myself.

Now, I hadn’t thought about that moment in a long time, but it peeked into my consciousness today.

And I thought it was an important message to share with you, because I don’t know if you need to hear this today or not, but you are the last person I’m worried about getting things done.

You will get it done.

I trust that you can discern the important from the distracting.

You are enough, and you are worthy of the success you desire.

I believe in you.