The Need to Succeed: A personal essay from Generation Z

What does success look like for me?

My whole life I have been told I will be successful. My teachers had affirmed that my good grades and work ethic will bring me to great things. My managers at my first job saw quickly how I would grow in the workplace and contribute greatly. My parents have always assured me that I will be successful.
Even when I taught class lessons to my teddy bears and came home from school every day with a new fact I retained about animals.
Surely, this brought significant stress into my life. I need to do this, I deserve it. Can I handle it? Although it wasn’t always stressful; everything seemed to glide very smoothly until my junior year in high school. I had it all figured out, I will go to college and get a good job.
My junior year was when I first started seeing posts on social media of where everyone had committed to college. D1 sport commits, Boettcher scholars and more. These things filled in my brain, what if I don’t succeed like them?
Uncertainty: Am I cut out for this? Is this feasible?
Fear: Fear of failing. Fear of never knowing how things will turn out.
Growing up, we very rarely heard about trade school or starting businesses. It was always college this or college that.
I had to stop pursuing success and start pursuing my goals — the success follows. I couldn’t let social media and pop culture define success for me anymore. People around me are 4.0 students and going into astrophysics. These are great examples of achievement. Is it my version of success? No. My version of success is reporting, telling meaningful stories and experiencing things to share with the world around me.
This pressure surrounding me to succeed has opened my eyes and revealed to me that everyone defines success differently. It’s difficult to accept that everyone’s story is different, and it will never look the same.
I can’t expect one’s success to be the same as my own. There is an aphorism: “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
Growing up as the youngest child in my extended family led me to see the great successes my older, wiser and knowledgeable counterparts had achieved.
Although it took me a long time to figure out — what does success look like to me?
Bella Terhark is a 2022 graduate of Castle View High School and recently served as an intern with Colorado Community Media.


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