The Pressure to Be the Best

By Nicole Yuen, USA


I’ve known about God for as long as I can remember. My parents are both Christians, and I grew up attending church. But even though I knew about God’s unconditional love from an early age, I wasn’t immune from the pressure to achieve.

My parents always taught me to do my best, and to not turn down any good opportunities. It was good advice, but something got lost in translation for me, and I interpreted it as “be the best, and do everything.”

When I surprisingly got into one of New York’s top high schools, those pressures became very real to me. It was a surprise because I hadn’t prepared nearly as much as my study-obsessed peers. All of a sudden, I was swept up into the fast-paced world of commuting to school on the subway, cramming for tests during free periods, jam-packing my days with activities and classes, and staying up late studying. It was a highly competitive school, and even though I had friends, we all knew we were competing against each other for the same prize: a spot in an Ivy League school.

I was exhausted, both mentally and physically. When I failed to gain admission into a single Ivy League college, I thought I had wasted all my time and effort. I felt like a disappointment because I had failed to prove my worth.

While my friends had harsh dilemmas like choosing between Harvard or Yale, I struggled to accept my future at a school I didn’t even like. Worst of all, there was absolutely nothing I could do to change my predicament. I had never felt more hopeless in my life. I had tricked myself into thinking that I could control my future by racking up grades and pouring myself into activities, but the reality was, I had absolutely no control at all.

Once I accepted that I was not in control, I did the only thing I could—I begged God to change my situation for the better. And He did—but not in a way I could ever have expected.

One day, I unexpectedly received word that I had been accepted into one of my preferred schools where I was placed on waiting list. It was a statistical miracle. I had applied there as an afterthought, only to realize that God had a place for me there all along. Two years later, I can say that God knew me better than I knew myself, and He knew where I belonged. Had I been accepted into an Ivy League school, I would have gone without question—and would never find myself where I am now. I might have still believed that it was my works, not God’s plan that decided my future.

Although having the controls wrenched from my hands was a painful experience, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

If you take anything away from this article, please remember that God knows what is best for you even better than you do. God isn’t like a college admissions board. You don’t need to—and you can’t—prove yourself to Him. It doesn’t matter whether you are rank #1 in your class or #1000. He loves all of us equally, infinitely, and He cares for you as His child. God wants the best for you and will give it to you if you let Him. All you need to do is to let go and give Him the controls.

8 replies
  1. Weng Ern
    Weng Ern says:

    Well written and a powerful testimony to the phrase “God knows what is best for you even better than you do”. Many times we know this phrase, but it’s only when we experience it, we understand the full implications of it.

    An encouraging testimony 🙂

  2. anon
    anon says:

    i’m really glad you feel this way, since your happiness is very important 🙂

    however, i hate to say this, but this article kind of makes you sound somewhat naive and lacking in self-awareness regarding your privilege

    • Christie
      Christie says:

      How does she even sound naive and lacking in self-awareness?

      I think this is an excellent testimony, and very relevant to people still in school.

  3. william
    william says:

    dear nicole,

    continue to grow under His grace. blessed by this article. shall print this page and share it to students under my care.

    ybic, william, jakarta.

    • peter
      peter says:

      Very nice testimony, accepting the fact that we are not in control is a good step so that we can be better coz we will rely and trust in HIM more.

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