By: Maria Pascucci, Founder of Campus Calm
Three years in a row, I had the privilege of speaking at NCCWSL, the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. It’s inspiring to witness the power of female college students and young women leaders from all backgrounds uniting in a collaborative space to find and share their voices. I would recommend that any female college student attend to discover her leadership platform.
I led my keynote presentation, “Get #PerfectlyImperfect & Lead” to a packed to capacity room of female college students who are among our nation’s most accomplished, ambitious and awe-inspiring rising leaders.
Many of these same female college students are also unfortunately among our nation’s most stressed-out, anxiety-ridden and overwhelmed rising leaders.
America’s High Achieving Female College Students Are At-Risk Too.
They’ve been suffering in silence because of the pressure that they feel the world places on them to be perfect. They also place unrealistic pressure on themselves to be perfect.
We break the cycle of perfectionism when we share our voices to help young women see that they are not alone. I invite you to listen as female college students from across the country speak out about their struggles with perfectionism, and the pressure they feel to achieve more and succeed further even to the detriment of their own health.
When I speak at conferences, my presentations are well-attended because the subjects Campus Calm addresses are typically not talked about publicly amongst students. As one female college student attendee said, “Maria’s keynote and discussion gave us the safe space that we needed to address the issues that most wouldn’t dare talk about.”
I’m not talking about being a high-achiever, engaged in the classroom driven by a love of learning. I’m talking about fear-based Ambition with a capital “A”. It’s, “I HAVE TO be perfect or else someone is going to find out that I’m not worthy or good enough.”
This Ambition can lead to accolades and achievements, but it can also lead to self-doubt, poor self-worth and even mental health challenges like anxiety, depression and sleep difficulties. They are all barriers to leadership, health, confidence and resilience that can weaken female college students at their roots. What’s worse is when we’re tying our self-worth to our grade point average, we can shy away from challenging classes, leadership roles and internships that are outside our comfort zone, fearing not being perfect.
These taboo topics, left unaddressed, can lead to female college students suffering in silence. Silence breeds shame. Shame breeds more shame and the cycle never stops. Until we change the story:
Perfection is driven by shame, guilt and fear.
Vulnerability is born out of courage, faith and love.
Perfection is saying, “yes” to every opportunity and person that comes your way…whether you want to or not.
Vulnerability is giving yourself permission to say “no” more so you can create the space to say, “yes” to your own passions, priorities and health.
Perfection is alienating.
Vulnerability is a magnet that draws in collaborators who are moved by your authenticity and resilience.
Perfection leaves you hungry for more with every achievement you earn.
Vulnerability lets you stand in your success long enough to take it in with a thankful heart.
Perfection is about impressions.
Vulnerability is about bravely building meaningful connections.
Perfection closes doors.
Vulnerability makes you a window for other’s to shine through.
Perfection is an unattainable illusion.
Vulnerability is an attainable reality that has the power to reshape the world.
Perfection is the excuse.
Vulnerability is the will to try.
The mission of Campus Calm is exponentially important because it creates a network of like-minded individuals who can realize they are not alone. During every step of my life I have felt overwhelming and paralyzing pressure to succeed, achieve, grow, meet standards, and live up to the expectations of my dreams. I realize, after finding the Campus Calm network and attending Maria’s presentation at NCCWSL, that I am not alone, and I do not have to be ashamed for feeling the way I do. I can admit that I am scared, that I am over-my-head, that I feel I am never good enough, and all of these truths are okay to speak about.
Campus Calm has helped me reflect on the person I am, and has allowed me to begin the realization that I do not have to do it all, be it all, have it all. I can forge my own path, mindful of my choices, but with an attitude of acceptance about my failures as well. I thank Maria endlessly, and her mission, for helping me hold a mirror up to myself, and for serving as the catalyst to a more productive and passionate outlook.
–Katelyn Cohen, Moravian College, Student attendee, National Conference for College Women Student Leaders