In brief...

I'm a Nature-lover, aspiring conservationist, and wannabe traveller in search of outdoor adventure.
My interests vary from conservation to education to heritage to Nature (biodiversity & wildlife) to outdoor activities to life in general.
They occupy most of my waking moment.
Do read my blogs, follow me on Twitter (@jocelynesze) and friend me on Facebook (subject to my discretion). Visit my Nature blog, Nature Rambles, at

UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit if you're interested in more recent writing.

Friday, May 15, 2015

the pressure of expectations.

I woke up this morning to my alarm and, as most people now probably do, lay in bed checking my Whatsapp/LINE/Facebook/Twitter (and Mail if it's a particularly boring day). Un/fortunately, it was not particularly boring, and I started out my day reading some particularly depressing articles. One, the news of Rohingya people drifting on boats for days to months with little food and water. The whole time I'm reading articles, I'm just going wtf, these are people and lives we're talking about. I know, there isn't an easy solution, but still. When the Nepal earthquakes struck, people sprung into action so quickly. Just cos these people have no land they are allowed to call their own, means we don't do anything? >:( (not that I'm any better, all I do is sit here and shout angrily in my head at the authorities but do little else...)

Another was on social perfectionism and how that was driving male suicides. I'm obviously not a guy, and one of the main points of the article was that males often find they can't admit they're 'failing' and don't receive support and so see suicide as their only solution. I sure hope my brothers and male family members and friends never feel like they're alone in facing a problem cos they can't talk about it to anyone, or feel driven to suicide as the only option, and I do agree there is a great need to break down that stereotype (that guys must be 'man' and not show weakness). And if anyone ever needs a listening ear, I am always happy to offer mine, no matter the circumstance. But what really struck me when reading the article was the pressure to succeed, to meet the expectations of what you think society/your parents/your friends expect of you. Cos I can definitely empathise with that.

I do expect quite a lot from myself, just cos I want to be better (a better scientist, a better friend, a better person etc). But I also know for certain, that there are people who do expect something from me, usually something fairly great (one of my friends gave me a 'Great Expectations' mug and it's staring right back at me now). And perhaps somewhat bizarrely, or perhaps not, I feel the high expectation from people who've never mentioned anything of this sort before either. So I end up pushing myself not just for myself, but for others, and whatever life decisions I make, I make with all these in mind. Of course I know we live life for ourselves (and for God), and not for others, but the expectation is there and I can't get away from it.

At least though, these expectations are largely in line with what I want from myself too, and they end up being some source of motivation especially in exam time when I just feel too stupid to get the grade I want. (And I try to convince myself my worth or success in life is not tied to my grades) While in those cases, it seems it's mostly the pressure to conform to societal expectations and norms/standards (of achievement and of behaviour). I don't know if I would blanket call it unhealthy to have societal expectations and norms though, cos after all a society functions largely because of expectations and norms? But I guess society's perception of 'perfect' is damaging, no matter which way you look at it? But people pushing themselves to become better isn't necessarily a bad thing, that's how we improve as a society isn't it.

I can't go into any deeper analysis (too tired to think further and I need to focus on exams), and all I really wanted to say was that all these expectations and pressure can be damaging. Not just expectations in terms of career, or behaviour but also in appearance, which is perhaps something girls are more affected by than guys. I found out that a flippant comment about her weight triggered an eating disorder in one of my juniors at school. Most people still don't seem to realise how their words can have huge impact on others, even if casually mentioned. Even if you think the person you're talking to knows you're kidding, or that he/she can take these jokes, these words stick and can cause major self-esteem issues. I have terrible self-discipline, read too much (about what eating disorders are like, how it's bad for health and concentration etc), am too critical and honest with myself to starve myself or make myself throw up after every meal, but people occasionally making comments about how I've gotten fat do make me think a lot more about my weight. (I know I'm not fat by BMI standards) Complimenting someone about how skinny he/she is could backfire as well, especially if he/she has an eating disorder cos it might be taken as affirmation that he/she should carry on. Which is why in general I don't comment on people's weight. You never know what other people are going through.

One of those 'how do you react under pressure' stories.

Expectations could go either way for a person I guess, depending on what kind of person he/she is. Drive them to success or suicide. Thankfully for me, I have a God whom I trust wholeheartedly to be my rock and refuge, my source of strength and my shepherd. And my self-esteem issues are all short-term (sleeping usually does the trick). I just have to trust that His plan for me is in line with what I expect from myself. It's still a constant internal battle though, between 'yes I can, with Him', 'whatever His will is', and 'I'm just too stupid'.


  1. Anonymous3:37 pm

    hi jocelyne i've been reading your blog for a while, hope you don't mind me commenting here :-) i have a lot to say but well thanks for this post! the article on social perfectionism perfectly described the impact of *perceived* physical, academic, athletic & social expectations of family/society/friends that’s been wearing down at me for too long. the rg/rj/oxbridge environment feeds this societally imposed perfectionism as i’m sure you’re aware; i know far too many people with eating disorders and inferiority complexes. last weekend - the same weekend i was struggling really hard with depressive thoughts and old eating disorder compulsions resurfacing - i heard a sermon on true peace/Phil 4:6-9 (and cried like mad haha), and many friends shared this article ( on Facebook, and finally you blogged this link… i guess the message hit home really strongly. this past year i’ve been learning how to fix my thoughts on whole and good and God/self-affirming notions, and live life from the inside-out instead of outside-in so that my expectations come from within. if that makes sense. sorry for rambling but anyway thank you :-)

    1. Hey, thanks for commenting and sharing! Definitely please feel free to comment, I don't get enough of that :P
      Yeah, going to top schools and being in a high pressure environment definitely makes one feel this pressure to be perfect, if one isn't already a perfectionist. I think there are a lot of tricky issues that need to be untangled and tackled (family, society, education etc), and hopefully will be sooner than later.
      I really hope you find the peace within that you need, and never doubt that even if you aren't perfect in your eyes, you are in His eyes and you are worth something to someone in this world and to Him. Take care, and keep the faith and trust (: