Okay, this needs to be discussed. Self-doubt. That little demon that comes into every student’s head. No one talks about it, and I’m going to change that right now.
My self-doubt is tied to the pressure to succeed, because I always feel like there is a lot of weight on me to do well from my family and myself. There are so many ways we can deal with this and I want to share my experiences to help make this normal so we can seek the help we need and get rid of the shame of feeling overwhelmed.
At one point in my first year, I had 3 essays due on the same day (4500 words). I had classes in the afternoon, so I decided to do a final read-through and do my final changes in the morning, submit then go to uni. I opened the document, read the first sentence and shouted “I can’t do this!” and instantly felt like vomiting. The room was spinning and I felt my face change to the colour red. I had some me-time and then eventually, I tried again and eventually submitted the essays.
Just this year, I had a test worth 20% of the course grade. In this course, we had two tests and in the first test, I did the worst I had ever done in my entire life, I literally got 50%. I JUST passed. Because of how difficult that last test was and I had built my grade from a C- to a B- thanks to all the other assignments in the course, I felt the need to do well. The night before the test, I was studying in my room and suddenly, I went “I can’t do this, this is going to ruin my life.” I was convinced this assignment was going to ruin my chances of getting into postgraduate studies. I was ready to call the university to drop out as my escape from this test. But, I didn’t and I made it. I was breathing heavily in the lecture theatre before the test started, my hands were so shaky my friend had to calm me down and tell me everything was going to be okay.
So, how do you deal with this? There are so many options which I use and they are my go-to survival resources.
I am so lucky to have smart, supportive and energetic friends. You need the combination rather than just the smart so that you have a support network and a real friendship rather than a study team. The support and energy helps bring light to the study session and the stress you feel. My friends are so helpful in ways such as being someone I can chat to, they make memes on our assignments and lecturers or they help me calm down. I think in general, a pro tip to succeed in study is to make friends who make studying fun. Have friends you can laugh with, relax with, someone you can share memes with, it makes a powerful friendship.
Watching Old Graduations:
I know this sounds weird, but watching old graduation ceremonies helps me visualise and remember why I’m studying. Whenever I watch the ceremonies, I visualise and imagine my name being read out and imagine myself walking across that stage getting my degree. It makes me think “I will get there one day.” and it pushes me to look to the future rather than the pressure I’m experiencing in the present. Taking 30 minutes, sometimes more, really helps a lot.
Something I have learnt to do in my second year is to take some time for myself. As it says on our Canvas pages (Canvas is where we submit our assignments and access readings), “Well-being always comes first.” Previously, I felt so pressured to do well that I completely forgot to take breaks and I lost my motivation to do work. I was tired and let’s be real, if you’re tired, you’re not going to produce quality work. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to stop and let your mind go off. I do this in many ways.
For example, I have a policy that I don’t do any work on the bus on the way to and from uni. The bus is for me to talk to friends or listen to music. It gives me time to get away from the sound of academia and I can let my mind wander.
I love theatre, I grew up in them, so I am always on the hunt to see if something big is coming. Auckland is buzzing with live entertainment and there’s always something to look forward to from Jersey Boys and Mary Poppins in the Civic or Woe is We and Romeo and Juliet in the PumpHouse Theatre. Something to keep me entertained and take me on a journey is just what I need to have some me-time. Something to look forward to when Auckland goes back to Alert Level 1 is The Merchant of Venice in the PumpHouse Amphitheatre from January until February 2022 (I’m not hinting anything here).
I know uni can be overwhelming sometimes, but there are ways you can overcome this pressure. We all just need to find our own ways of dealing with this.