Receiving midterms back can string up nervousness or even excitement inside of you. Group chats and conversations start up saying how marks have been returned or answers are posted. You check immediately and make your own judgement based on what you received. Maybe you are happy you got above what you wanted, or you are upset because it was a lot harder than you thought. Around you, you hear the class average, what other people received, and their own comments. Your own perception can change, bringing immense relief or immense stress; however, this feeling may take its toll on you.
Based on this reaction, you can start to prepare for the next midterm. Maybe you set goals, or seek assistance in class, or take it easy; you use this feedback for your own mindset and own improvement. Ideally, that’s the case. However, we often get hung up on these measures of “success” that linger in the back of our minds. This stress could lead to overworking yourself to attempt to do better or appear better to others, for fear of not living to certain standards. This is a harmful habit to have, which extends beyond just midterm grades.
We often compare ourselves on a daily basis at our university through other things such as seeing who started working on problem sets first, who has more work, who is more involved on campus, and more. It unconsciously becomes a slight competition, especially if we do not intend it to be. It even leads to students overworking themselves, being afraid to participate, losing sleep, and becoming overly stressed on top of their own personal goals. Most of the time, we do not even notice it is happening because it is so integrated within our lives.
Personally, I was unconsciously hooked up on this concept in my first year. I internally justified every action, for fear of being too lazy with my homework, that I was not achieving my best potential with marks, and that I was spending too much time at home relaxing. This made my first year really difficult because I was focusing on trying to fit in, instead of learning to adjust to new environments and enjoying myself. I was trying to compare my own success to others, and it was taking a toll on me. It was not a healthy lifestyle; I knew I had to change that for second year.
However, just like breaking any other habit, changing this mentality is difficult, especially since we are concentrating on trying to shape the best future for after university. We know that we should not cause ourselves this stress as it stalls our personal growth, but how do we do it?
Within our community, every single person has a different set of experiences, abilities, and goals that have shaped them to be who they are. As a result, we all have unique definitions for success and we complete different achievements. By collaborating with each other, instead of comparing, to work towards our own goals, we can benefit ourselves and each other a lot more. As a result, in my second year, I started setting my own goals for my marks and realized that my personal situation is different from others. I may spend more time cooking food at night and on certain courses for example, but that does not mean that it is wrong. This focus did not make me selfish, but rather allowed me to help others more instead of having an unwanted sense of jealousy.
To make sure you are less likely to be affected by the stress induced by subconscious comparison, set out personal goals that are reflective of your own growth. Instead of telling yourself “I want to hit the class average on my midterms” maybe change it to “I am going to put forward my best effort to get this grade”. This makes your goals independent of others. Understand that setbacks do happen in life, and instead of feeling inferior, you can set out your own plan to do better. Sometimes a bad day, or something unexpected occurs that may affect your plans, but that is okay. It is important to note that everyone has different ways to learn and different paths they are taking in life. Finding your own pace may take time, but it is worth it. One thing I am grateful for at SkuleTM is the strong sense of community and the team-first mindset. Let’s work together to achieve success.