Recently, I learned about the duck syndrome from a friend of mine at Stanford University. The duck syndrome is apparently running rampant at many colleges (and from my research) at many high schools as well. What is the duck syndrome? Well, think of the duck gliding along the water. She looks very serene, calm and pleasant. Then, look under the water and s/he is paddling frantically. That is the duck syndrome. Too many students on the outside are appearing calm, cool and collected while on the inside they are completely stressed out. As women, we want to see ourselves being able to have it all. To be the great student, great athlete, and well-liked by her peers, which typically means being social. But what price do we pay? Proving we can do it all has transformed into an ugly state of unattainable expectations and extremes, which are unhealthy for any girl at any age. This is a recipe for disaster that really goes against what feminism truly stands for.
I believe high school is where this syndrome starts to formulate. Many of the girls that suffer from the duck syndrome in college were probably “big fish in small pond” at their high school. Most teens want to be popular, and to be popular these days means that you can do it all. I see high school students staying up ridiculously late doing homework, always wanting the A, playing on one if not two sports teams, and also expecting to go out every weekend. All this can lead to anxiety, depression, and unhealthy habits. When they get to college, which could have 12 to 20,000 students, being big fish is not so easy anymore so the stakes get higher. During college, the classes (typically) are more difficult with more homework, papers and tests. If they see their peers staying out late and still getting good grades, they feel the peer pressure to attain the same and compete among the top percent, to be popular, to be perfect. This means more competition and pressure for top grades with less sleep. We need to teach our teens that setting limits for themselves never means failure, but in fact it means a healthy and happy life with realistic and attainable goals. Paddling frantically is literally for the birds.