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Leaving Cert Results - The Weight of Expectation

Young girl reflecting
Who were you before the world told you who you should be

Today is one of those milestone days in most of our lives - the day the Leaving Certificate results arrive. A day largely reported to be one of stress, dread, anxiety, yet hope for thousands of young adults each year. We have all been there.

It is an emotional day for me, truth be told, as I tend to think of those kids (yes, they are still kids) who are growing up with the weight of expectations from parents or guardians about what they should do, what path to choose, what direction to take. And while it is most often from a place of love and care for our children, wanting the best for them, we forget so easily what we want and what they want can be very different things.

I grew up with a pushy father. He loved me, no question. But I was his firstborn and a lot of pressure came on me. Aged just 17, he brought me to Ireland's leading University and told this is where I will be going, this is the course I will be doing. I know he did it out of love, but there was no room for discussion, no space for my thoughts. He filled my CAO forms with me in round one, where his choice was top of the list. Later, as an act of rebellion, I removed this from the form second round without him knowing, but still kept a similar course on so as not to rock the boat too much...fearing the moment he found out. I am not sure he ever did, because due to pressure, I got so overwhelmed, I failed to get the level of points anyway. I still did well, but not well enough..."could have done better" has been the point made to me for years since.

I am 40 years of age now, and as recent as two months ago, he brought up how he paid for grinds for me to do Honours Maths and told me in no uncertain terms I had gotten an Honour in my Leaving Cert maths because of them. I did not...I dropped to pass and believe me, it has never mattered since in terms of my career or life.

So why I am writing this? What does this matter?

I share this because today, as a Life and Career Coach who works with Developmental Trauma, at least one in three of my clients is carrying the weight of expectations still from parents from years earlier. They are miserable, unfulfilled, bored, stressed in their careers and lives because they followed the path given to them, as opposed to the path they truly wanted to take.

I often ask the question:

"Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?" (Charles Bukowski)

Very few do.

So I invite you, if you are a young adult facing college and next stages of life, please trust yourself. Listen to your heart. If you get it wrong, it will be ok. You are supposed to take a few wrong turns and meet a few dead ends - they'll point you in the right direction.

If you are parent or guardian of a young adult facing into this, please trust them!

We all need to make our own way, make our own mistakes, figure things out for ourselves. Even when as a parent we think we know best, we want to protect our children from hurt - not believing in them hurts them more than you maybe realise. And they may spend a lifetime trying to prove themselves because of it.

Every acorn has the potential to become an oak tree, but it needs the right environment to make it happen. Be that environment for your child.

Encourage them to follow their dreams. Even if you think it won't work out, encourage them anyway because when someone believes is us, we grow.


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