Understanding Pressure and How to Use It for Personal Growth


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man feeling pressure playing tennis

Billie Jean King, the activist and tennis legend, famously said that “pressure is a privilege”. The quote comes from when she was stepping onto the court for what was expected to be her 40th Grand Slam win. With the pressure and expectations of the tennis community on her, Billie Jean King chose to view pressure as a privilege.

We often view pressure as a negative force, associating it with stress and turmoil. However, pressure plays an important role in our lives. It presents itself when our character and approach to life are being tested. When we feel pressure, we can choose how to engage with it. 

It’s more accurate to view pressure as being the consequence of having responsibility, either as a leader or an individual. You might feel pressure to finish High School or to win a sporting competition, but we can see this pressure as being a privilege, instead of a negative force.

Friction and pressure are crucial in allowing us to grow as people. As a teen life coach, I encourage clients to see pressure as a privilege and a positive force to act upon.  

Table of Contents:

Stress vs. Pressure

Can We Live Without Pressure?

How to Find the Privilege in Pressure


  • We often view pressure as a negative force, associating it with stress and turmoil. However, pressure plays an important role in our lives. 
  • Stress occurs when the environment around us puts demands on us that are greater than our perceived ability to respond to them adequately. Pressure occurs when we feel as if something is at stake.
  • We can choose to see pressure as a privilege that pushes us to perform and become better people. 

Stress vs. Pressure

It’s a misconception that stress and pressure are the same thing. Stress occurs when the environment around us puts demands on us that are greater than our perceived ability to respond to them adequately. The difference with pressure is that it occurs when there is something highly valuable at stake that we care about.

A note on stress. We’ve come as a society to see stress as a negative force in our lives, with workplace and academic stress being vilified. However, some stress can be productive – and even healthy.

Read more: 6 Ways Parents Can Support Teens at School

Eustress’ is a form of moderate stress that can be beneficial as it comes from positive challenges in our lives. It triggers the growth of new neurons in the brain, helping us perform better and process challenges in the future. Eustress usually occurs when we feel out of our comfort zones or pushed to do something new.

Comparatively, pressure occurs when we feel as if something is at stake – whether it’s a Grand Slam or getting your driver’s license. Similarly to eustress, pressure can also be viewed as healthy as facing challenges in a positive way gives us more energy and enhances our cognitive capabilities by sending more oxygen to our brain and body.

Can We Live Without Pressure?

Imagine what your life would be like without pressure. What would drive you to perform as an individual and try something new? Without pressure and expectations, how do we evolve as people? Family life coaches can work to identify areas of your life where pressure can be a positive influence and help you understand why you feel this pressure.

We can choose to see pressure as a privilege that pushes us to perform and become better people. We’re lucky to have pressure in our lives because it shows us that we care about something, whether it’s doing well in school or competing in a sporting event. Choosing to view pressure as a privilege can help you manage stress and find your purpose in life.

How to Find the Privilege in Pressure

Think of something in your life where you feel pressured. It could be something as simple as getting concert tickets to your favorite singers or learning a new recipe. We feel pressure because we care about something important to us. While stress has outward factors, pressure is an individual experience and different for everyone. 

We feel pressure when the stakes are high and have to perform to achieve a certain outcome. Choosing to look inward and considering pressure as a feeling of self-assurance can make us more well-rounded individuals and find our purpose in life.

Here are ways you can find privilege in pressure:

1.     It Makes Us Be Honest with Ourselves

We can think of pressure as a test, whether it’s to perform at work or to achieve a milestone. Pressure is a driving force that makes us act, but also forces us to be honest with ourselves by deciding what is important to us. Switch your thinking and embrace pressure as a chance to learn more about yourself.

Ask yourself:

  • Why am I feeling pressure?
  • What does this pressure say about my wants or needs?
  • How can I act on this pressure positively?

2.    Makes Us Better by Driving Us to Be Proactive

Pressure is a privilege as it forces us to become better individuals. Without pressure, life would be boring, and we would never feel driven to take proactive steps. For example, if you feel pressure to win a football game, you’re going to put the time and effort into going to practice, working on your fitness, and preparing yourself for the game. 

Getting out of our comfort zone and doing something challenging is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and who we are as individuals. Embracing pressure as a privilege will make it easier to get out of your comfort zone.

3.    Allows Us to Engage with Life More Meaningfully

Without pressure, we would never be driven to get out of our comfort zones. You’d never feel the adrenaline rush of achieving something or ticking it off your bucket list. We won’t always deliver in these scenarios and achieve what we want, but pressure allows us to engage with life more meaningfully – including the ups and downs of life. When we feel pressure and fail, it’s a learning experience for the future.

We’re privileged to feel pressure because it shows us what is important to our lives. Without pressure, we would never test ourselves or experience triumph and satisfaction. Similarly, without pressure, we wouldn’t be able to make changes in our lives after experiencing failure.

Pressure is a crucial part of life. Seeing pressure as a privilege allows us to live more meaningful lives.

Seeing Pressure as a Privilege with Teen Life Coaching

Billie Jean King said that seeing pressure as a privilege was about embracing the feeling of ‘I want the ball’, rather than betting on the other player failing. By wanting the ball, we’re stepping up to a challenge and being proactive.

Are you or your child feeling pressure in your day-to-day life? Book a free consultation to find out how you can make pressure a positive force in your life.

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