What motivates me is my will to succeed later in life, but my expectations of myself and my mom’s expectations for me are hard to separate. When I was a small child my mother would tell me stories about how she was the top of her class, answering every question right and getting A+’s in every subject. I strive to be like her but I’ve found that I just love to procrastinate. At times, this has caused problems, and it has seemed like nothing I’ve tried could solve my issue. This might sound crazy, but it’s been my anxiety that has saved me. I’ve always been anxious—anxious that I will fail a test, anxious that I will get expelled for not doing homework, anxious that I will get a F in any class. I’m the kind of person who needs to find the exit in case something bad happens. This isn’t harmful; I think it actually calms me down. It doesn’t cause me any pain—I just scan the room for an exit or a doorway. In this way, my anxiety can motivate me. But, in addition to being motivated by anxiety, my interests should motivate me.
When my parents are too in my business, I tend to be more anxious and want to please them instead of making myself happy. I have a friend who is very close with me. She doesn’t have time to pursue her own interests and she complains about how her mom is ruining her life. Her mom needs to read every book she reads before she reads it and she wasn’t allowed to watch any PG-13 movies until she was 13. They even check homework every night to make sure she has done it. It’s not like she has a issue with turning in her homework, they just want to latch onto her and stay there like parasites. They make her feel like she doesn’t have a voice. She has been practicing violin since 2nd grade and she hates it. Her parents don’t see that; all they see is a future that will be greatly benefited by violin skills. The need to please her parents makes her anxious. Everyday I see her picking at her eyebrows and eyelashes. She does this when she gets nervous. It’s become somewhat of a habit now. All of her eyelashes and eyebrow hairs are gone and still, her parents just don’t see how anxious she is. They don’t see that all of her academic efforts are for them and not herself.
External forces, even overbearing parents, can be a good way to get you out of your comfort zone, but they’re not as good as desires that come from within. Being nestled in one place is boring. When I was very little my mom made me take swimming lessons. I hated going under the water; it was cold and the chlorine burned my small eyes. Still, she made me go every day. I hated it. I kicked and screamed and I honestly wanted to leave. As the years went on, I started to actually enjoy swimming. It was relaxing but hard. I guess my mom was right. I would never have tried swimming on my own. But I think my mom should have just let me quit when I hated it. I would have probably come back to it when I was older. Even though my mom was right about my inner love for swimming, she still should have let me quit when I hated it so much that would rather pretend to be sick. Now that I’m older, I come to other activities without my parents. My friend was very interested in horse riding, and I was also interested in horses. I asked my mom if I could take lessons and that was the start of my passion for horse riding. I’m more committed to something when pursuing that thing is my idea, no matter if I end up liking it or not. The push that motivates me to go to horse riding every week comes from within and the push that used to make me go to swimming was from an external force.
Anxiety can make it hard for me to get work done, but it can also motivate me to do stuff that I maybe wouldn’t do without it. During a large test last year, I knew the material very well and I was on my way to acing it. Then my teacher said, “Don’t make any mistakes! This test counts for 10% of your grade!” Of course I flipped out. I knew that material but I also knew 10% was a lot for one test. I started worrying what would happen if I failed. Maybe I would get kicked out; maybe I would fail math class. I was so stressed that I couldn’t focus at all. I ended up getting a very low score and having to do a retake. I was so anxious that it was blocking my ability to focus and actually accomplish what I knew I could do. Why couldn’t I just be calm and worry about it after? Well, the test was now. Anything I answered could be wrong. If something was wrong, that meant my grade would go down—down to a F or even worse, getting expelled. In this instance, my anxiety was a large blockage, but sometimes it can be an asset. At home, I worry about what would happen if I didn’t do my homework, so I do it fast and I finish. When I forget a piece of homework, I can’t sleep and I get nervous because I’m worrying about what might happen. The internal force pushing me to complete my homework wants me to get a good GPA so my parents don’t disown me.
When an external force pushes me to do something, I resist, but when I come to something on my own, I’m less anxious and more willing to participate. When my friend who has very controlling parents plays violin, she doesn’t fully have her heart in it because she hates it. I hope she finds something that really interests her on her own, because then she will find what she loves and truly put her whole heart into the activity. I have a passion for pottery. Currently, I don't have time to pursue this activity but I might when I have more free time. My parents let me take up new activities if I’m no longer interested in the old ones; they support my desires to do what I love to do. Motivation should come from what you want not from what someone expects from you.