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The Duck Syndrome: Are we living in an illusion?

a duck

(Illustration: Shutterstock)

Blog |   21. Jun 2021

Anja Navadvorskaya

The Stanford Duck Syndrome points out a common way of rationalizing: Work or die.

Pretty dramatic, but if you think about it, how many people have you heard say something like: “I’m fine with working 14 hour-days for the next 3 years, otherwise I won’t make it”.

Sometimes I am one of those people. Keeping my head above water as well as I can, and as effortlessly as I can, no matter how stressed or pressured I am. For some reason, I always think that it is me that is too weak or slow if I cannot keep up, never considering that it might be the task that is overly demanding.

It is ironic how I sometimes feel like the duck swimming behind everyone else, struggling to move my feet under the surface

In fact, I have always thought that I am very aware of my own boundaries when it comes to my career and bachelor studies. However, sometimes I question why it is so challenging to admit that I might be pushing too hard or that I feel a little lost? After all, I say that I am comfortable with my boundaries?

It is ironic how I sometimes feel like the duck swimming behind everyone else, struggling to move my feet under the surface.

Funny how much we are willing to do just to convince our friends that everything in our lives is amazing. And more so, that all those amazing things have come to us so easily. Something like an “easy, breezy, beautiful – Cover Girl” commercial.

But damn, being easy breezy also requires hard work. It makes you wonder how other people manage to do it.

Personally, I forget that people whose lives seem absolutely perfect also have challenges and problems.

But there I sit, struggling to keep my eyes open during an all-nighter doing a meaningless assignment and reflecting on how others have already made it to Hollywood. How others just glide through life getting opportunities …

In fact, I know that I systematically overestimate how happy people around me are. I base their life on an illusion that ultimately ends up becoming my reality. A reality made up of assumptions and absolutely no idea about their personal emotions.

It gives me a feeling of being a hopeless overachiever who prides myself on being undefeatable, nevertheless always feeling behind everyone else. Or at least those I have chosen to compare myself with. My construction of their lives somehow results in how I see myself in reality, which makes me feel less satisfied with my achievements.

But damn, being easy breezy also requires hard work

The funny thing about us ducks is the fact that we are not that courageous at all. We would rather keep up behind the other ducks instead of taking a chance and risking getting lost from the crowd. Absurd.

What is my point, you think? I believe that it is crucial that we learn to speak about our insecurities. I am convinced that it becomes easier to make the right choices going forward if we become aware of the tasks and challenges that make us want to quit everything.

And always remember that these tasks and challenges are also present in the lives of those who you aspire to become. I mean, who goes through life without any problems and concerns? Probably no one.

If it is just too much, I think we must be brave enough to evaluate if we have actually chosen the right path. And if not, consider what other jobs, educations etc. we should take another look at. What are our true dreams and what routes and detours should we take to get back on the right track again?

This part however might be the hardest yet…


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