Overcoming Rory Gilmore Syndrome

Overcoming Rory Gilmore Syndrome

“Nobody is perfect,” is a notion we’ve all said or heard at some point in our lives, but seldom apply to our own lives. Many of us can instead endure the pressure of being perfect, which I have termed the Rory Gilmore syndrome.

If you’ve watched Gilmore Girls (and if you haven’t, I suggest binging it immediately), you’ll know Rory Gilmore was pretty much the perfect daughter in the first few seasons of the television show. She read classic novels for fun, achieved perfect grades, and was involved with her school and community. Plot twist, she wasn’t perfect. 

“My friend said I’d relate to Rory… [w]hen I finally got to Season 4, I realized my friend was referring to my multiple nervous breakdowns at Queen’s.”

When I first started watching the show, my friend —an avid Gilmore Girls fan —said I’d relate to Rory, especially in episodes centred on when she first goes to college. When I finally got to Season 4, I realized my friend was referring to my multiple nervous breakdowns at Queen’s. 

For Rory, her college days saw her grades drop and her ambitions get diminished by a mentor who believed she didn’t have the talent to pursue her dream career. This series of events led to her dropping out of school and getting arrested. How can a character fall so drastically from grace in such a short time? More importantly, could it happen to someone in real life? 

See, I was the kid who read all the time and studied without being told to do so. Then, university came and my grades stopped being perfect, even though I was studying more than ever before. Like Rory, I felt a loss of control over my life. I felt intimidated by my peers who seemed to be handling their courses just fine, while getting prestigious research positions and going out every week. I never saw myself as being anywhere near perfect, but, up to this point, I was able to make other people think I was.

Being the child everyone expects to be successful can put a lot of stress on you. When you’re accustomed to praise, like Rory, you start to think you’re not allowed to make mistakes. Everyone else can see your potential while you can’t, because they see your shiny law school acceptances, busy extra-curricular schedule, and the fly outfits  you wear to 8:30 AM lectures without seeing the effort and exhaustion it took to achieve that image. While everyone else sees the good, you’re always wrestling with the bad you don’t want people to see. Being your worst critic can help you improve, but there’s a limit. 

“When you hold yourself to such a high standard, a slight inconvenience can send you spiralling. I wanted to cure myself of Rory Gilmore syndrome before I burned out, followed in her footsteps, and stole a boat.”

When you hold yourself to such a high standard, a slight inconvenience can send you spiralling. I wanted to cure myself of Rory Gilmore syndrome before I burned out, followed in her footsteps, and stole a boat. Curing myself meant acknowledging my mistakes, and accepting failure instead of immediately trying to redeem myself. It meant saying, “It’s okay to take a bird course, to ask your TA for help every week, and to quit a school club if your schedule is too packed.” It meant that I had to stop comparing myself to others because there will always be people better than you and that doesn’t mean you’re not good enough.

I’m a firm believer in hard work —especially in the case of following your dreams —but it’s important that my fellow Rory Gilmores remember the pursuit of reaching an impossibly high standard should not come at the expense of your self-worth and mental health. Moreover, it’s okay for fun to take priority over work sometimes. Maybe I didn’t need to miss HOCO that year to study, and instead of working on an assignment I don’t even remember, I should’ve gone to the Brooklyn that last Tuesday before it shut down. 

Be flexible, be forgiving, and be proud of yourself —for all of your strengths and weaknesses.

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