As a perfectionist, my childhood was filled with SAT prep courses and all-nighters. Success equaled A+, and failure equaled everything else. My life was mapped out for me, and as an adult, it left me afraid of failure and fearful of trying new creative things.
Intellectual conformity stifles creativity and prevents children from living their youth. That is the primary message of Hermann Hesse’s Beneath the Wheel, a tragic tale of young Hans Giebernath, whose academic success is rewarded with more challenges and hard work.
When discovered to be a gifted student, Hans is pushed by his village towards a life of serious scholarship. He fears failure, and he is told that failure is out of the question. During his vacation, he wants to spend his time fishing, but he is pressed into additional studies by his community. He feels the satisfaction of receiving the constant praises for his achievements, but he struggles between who he is and who his community tells him he should be. Ultimately this struggle leads to a nervous breakdown.
Beneath the Wheel is a must-read for the imperfectionist. It’s a reminder of the dangers of doing what others expect of you over taking the path that your heart tells you to follow. It is a reminder that just because you’re good at something, it doesn’t mean that it is the right thing for you.