Learn from Smart Women

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To all people with strict Type A personalities:

            You’ve probably been told that you're diligent, efficient, ambitious, and thorough.  On the other hand, you’ve most likely, at some point or another, been simultaneously told to lighten up, be patient, not to work so hard, or just relax.  I understand that these things are contradictions, and the second half of such sentiments might not come as easily as the first.  You struggle to implement such advice, to balance it; the more you try, the more difficult it gets.


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            It’s hard to loosen your grip when you constantly feel an intense drive to ‘be the best’.  It’s hard to let go when you have always felt an extreme need to be in control.  It’s hard to stop driving full-force and risk failure.

            I understand how grating advice to ‘ease up’ can be.  I understand how easy it is to be defensive and use those words as motivation rather than a warning, and so you continue your busy and often taxing lifestyle.  I also know, deep in your heart, how badly you want to take this advice.  As a human whose mind operates similarly to the way yours does, I ask you to please listen. 

             I used to brush off this kind of advice too, until I learned that people with type A personalities have a significantly higher risk of suffering hypertension or having a heart attack.  I’ve realized that although I cannot change my personality or my true goals, I can change my outlook.  I can live my life to the fullest and be happier than I was before.

            It's okay for things not to be perfect.  Nothing ever is, and you know it.  It’s the great frustration of your existence.  It’s the reason why, no matter how hard you work, nothing seems finished.  It’s the reason why you were so upset after that failed relationship; you saw its potential and you would have given anything to meet it, but potential cannot be met with single-sided efforts.  It’s the reason you’ll never be satisfied with the letter you write in an effort to help others like yourself.  I know it’s hard to accept this.  When it feels like you can’t breathe, look at what lies in front of you.  Review what you can and cannot control in this situation.  With elements you can control, if you have tried your best, it is good enough.  With those you cannot control, let it go.

            I’ve found the best thing to ease this process is breathing.  Release your pent-up tension.  Remind yourself that there is nothing else you could have done.

            Risks are necessary to take during certain points in your life in order to move forward, but leaving behind what’s familiar can be scary.  You might fear your plan failing to succeed in the way you imagined.  You might fear making a mistake.  Have faith.  It is clear you will give it your best shot.  If things go wrong, don’t be so hard on yourself.  It may have been out of your control.  No matter the cause, use failure as a learning experience.  Knowing you, you will recognize what to do when a second chance at the desired outcome arises.

            Remind yourself what life is about.  What makes you happy?  Remember to take breaks in your work to rest your mind.  Take time to participate in activities that make you happy from the inside out.  Consciously make time for your loved ones.  It can be easy to compromise relationships for your work if work becomes all you think about. 


Embrace every moment before rushing onto what’s next. Trust yourself. You’re capable of greatness.


            On the other hand, your perfectionism may come off as too much to handle for some people.  It's good to be self-aware and admit when you are wrong, but don’t let people kill your ambition.  Don’t let perfectionism impede your relationships, but be aware of relationships that drain you more than they build you up.  These are not good relationships to be in.

            I know you might have a tendency to work hard at following this advice, but rather than make it your new project, let this newfound awareness flow through you organically.  Blend it into your life.  Recognize when you need to ease up or admit that you are wrong, and take those opportunities to apply it.  Breathe.  Take in your surroundings.  Embrace every moment before rushing onto what’s next.  And remember: everything will turn out well.  Trust yourself.  You’re capable of greatness. 


Emma is a first-year student at Connecticut College.  Although her major is currently undeclared, she plans on studying Behavioral Neuroscience.  Her passions include learning, dancing, the ocean, and spending time with friends and family.


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