How to Break Free From the Pressure to Succeed

By Melissa Coan

Photo by Emily Fletke

Photo by Emily Fletke

One time of the week remains my favorite. Friday evening, when the noise, heat, and movement of the busy city begins to settle and the sun moves into dusk, I feel like the world is at my fingertips.

When I’m meeting friends or going on a date — that sublime Gossip Girl or Sex and the City moment — I feel fabulous and like a New York City woman.

The truth about Friday dusk is it usually happens after a great week at work: I got my boss’ validation, a call-back, or some well-deserved recognition. A great week at work can often prompt the thought, “I’m worthy of living in NYC,” and Friday dusk often feels like the perfect reward.

As much as I lived for those perfect Friday dusks, I knew all too well that creeping around the corner were what I call Tuesday blues. A bad week of discouragement, exhaustion, unfulfillment, insecurity, and hopelessness. Been there? Also, a sudden breaking of every healthy habit I thought I had disciplined myself well to keep. I hate weeks like that.

But, alas, New York City has its highs and lows.

NYC is a place where we can often feel defined by what we do and how well we succeed. Our CVs are the backdrop of how we weigh our worth, our intelligence, and our significance. We are here to run the race, and not fall behind.

Born and raised in NYC, I had to fight to break free from the undercurrent of pressure to succeed. I felt the strain to run the races when applying to college, looking for my first job, trying to get that well-paid dream title. So much of my worth, purpose, and life’s meaning depended on the status and names of schools and companies.


And then - something happened. At the barrel-bottom of one of my Tuesday blues, I finally understood the radical counter-cultural statement of Jesus.

I sensed him telling me, “Know who I think you are and stand on that. It is an unwavering, solid foundation. My opinion is better than your boss’ or the HR department that hired you. You will have perfect and imperfect weeks, promotions and dismissals, validation and criticisms, but these won’t affect you the same way. You will know who you are and have a steady source of love and stability. You will never be able to earn your worth in my eyes, no matter how much comfort it gives you to think that you can. Rest in my opinion of you.”

Becoming a new Christian, this blew my mind. This was so radical from the way I lived my life. I lived to earn my love and my worth. Now I know that I’m highly valued, just the way I am.

Are you living to earn? Do you feel fulfilled?