Academy Student Finds Authentic Self and Academic Success
The featured student address this week comes from a member of the 2017 Simon Youth Clark-Pleasant Academy graduating class, Eric Robinson.
Eric’s Graduation Address:
I made an unspoken promise to myself to spend a maximum of two hours on this speech. Please understand that it took a lot to make that happen. The recovering perfectionist inside of me would much rather have spent countless days and nights typing and retyping this speech to absolute perfection.
If you would have asked Eric Robinson four months ago where he thought he would be right now, he most definitely would not have said, “at the Clark-Pleasant Academy.” He probably would have said that he thought he would be studying his butt off at a Starbucks and working for those “oh so perfect” semester grades.
I have always been an overachiever. Typically students would take pride in such a descriptor, but my compulsiveness to constantly succeed got in the way of my own personal happiness. At high school, I was that silent studier with a dangerous ambition to succeed. To get the highest grade. To outperform every living, breathing human being in what seemed like my infinite radius. This egocentrism and perfectionism all rooted from one central desire: to gain the respect and praise of others. I know, it sounds selfish. Modern psychology would indicate that those who need others’ respect are compensating for a steady lack of self-respect. Herein lies the issue that brought me to the Academy.
Although I was that seemingly perfect student, president of my choir, even an athlete, I did it all in search of some praise or respect from others that would make me feel better about myself. But the thing is that even when I did receive praise, I only wanted more. It took coming to the Academy to even begin realizing that my self-worth is in no way contingent upon my performance. And also that overachieving is of no value if your motivation is only to earn the respect of others.
In September, when this pulsing need for perfection resulted in a mental breakdown, I realized that what others think or will think or could think about Eric Robinson does not matter. Being the best does not ultimately matter. Being the star athlete /singer/student does not matter.
No amount of success or praise will change my personal happiness if I lack self-acceptance anyway. I can proudly say that the Academy helped me begin to develop self-confidence. I also knew that I had to develop self-respect and have the ability to believe my life philosophy whole-heartedly. Which brings me to my life philosophy: success is not measured by anything other than how well we, as human beings, love and pour into the lives of others. Mother Theresa, St. Francis, Jesus Christ; these individuals experienced success because they set aside personal desires and devoted their lives to helping others. I honestly do not believe success is determined by what rung you make it to on the fiscal ladder, or what Ivy League college you attend. Upon having a mental breakdown and coming to the Academy, I was able to humble myself and start to realize that.
Since being at the Academy, I have finally relinquished what insecurities were keeping me from respecting myself and accepting this philosophy that puts others first.
Simon Youth, this Academy that you so graciously fund has helped me to respect myself, see perfectionism as the enemy, and ultimately live in a way that rejects the concept of personal success defined by a fiscal ladder, academic success and popularity.