There is a common misconception amongst students that their University studies should be an untarnished experience, with absolutely no mistakes or setbacks. It seems that many of us think graduation requires an exemplary record of exam results, assignment marks, attendance – for me, this could not be further from the truth.
The aim of this blog is to open up the conversation about this internalised pressure and how it is completely counterproductive to your academic studies and also personal development. I want to show that making mistakes and failing is a natural learning process and, if we learn to deal with it in the right way, can actually provide us with the chance to do things better.
I’ve thought a lot about how to deal with my inner critic – you know the one who convinces you that your lower-than-expected mark means you’ll never see a cap and gown or that your part time job rejection means you’ll never get the career you want. I’ve found this six step approach to be one of the best ways of creating a cycle of change.
It’s important to first identify the demands that you place upon yourself and the reasoning behind them. This process involves a level of addressing any evoked emotions and states of mind, and then gently reminding yourself to relax.
Next time you find yourself in a predicament where there is an overwhelming sense of stress, take the time to breath and centre yourself. Count to ten and put on some calming music before proceeding with any uncompleted tasks.
Step two of tackling internalised pressure is to replace it with gratitude and begin the process of being kind to oneself. If pressure is left to spiral out of control it will result in feelings of contemptibility and interfere with installing new habits.
Notice the negative feelings you have towards yourself throughout the day and begin to exchange them with thankfulness. If you begin to find yourself stressing about an upcoming assignment, stop and appreciate having the ability to learn and acquire knowledge.
Accepting an adverse result can be difficult, especially if it was not what you planned or hoped for, but anger and resentment can feaster into a depressive state and so it is important to adopt internal disclosure and proceed with external action. You can take responsibility of an outcome without blaming yourself by acknowledgment.
When you are feeling disheartened due to a suboptimal consequence of your own actions, commence by processing the results and seek to learn from them. Being able to self-sooth is a useful skill set to have when practicing acceptance which is worth taking the time to master.
The pressured state is often a response to unnoticed triggers and an unidentified plan. As the pressured state becomes increasingly more pronounced there is a rapid and subconscious emotional sequence which is easy to miss unless it is paid close attention to. This state of emotion will alter our perception of priorities and how aware we are of our own experiences, which is why a plan is invaluable when facing an overwhelming situation.
Take the time to steady yourself before pressuring yourself by creating a plan of action that reminds you of what your primary tasks and core values are. In some emotional states, it is very hard to stick with a plan, but perseverance will allow you to think about what you want after the crisis passes.
This plan may include getting external help, I have listed some great resources below which will provide some extra support in times of crisis:
- The University counselling and mental health service which offers support in the form of workshops, group sessions, resources, and individual consults.
- The Mind charity have emergency services, advice lines, self-help tools and online resources that can all be useful aids.
- The Anxiety UK charity supplies resources and discounted therapy services to their members.
Re-orientation is an important aspect of this approach in dealing with internalised stress. It allows you to re-focus your energy on the primary task and core values by interrupting the automatic stress cascade.
Use a word, an idea or a behaviour to allow yourself to enter into the first step of recognition. If unexpected challenges do arise, take note of the qualities and observe what is happening internally for future reference; this way you have created a flexible strategy, open to development.
This approach requires ongoing work to learn and grow as an individual which requires self-reflection. It will make the stage of recognition easier and more rewarding because results will begin to accumulate, and setbacks will begin to feel better.
Set a timeline so that you remember to come back and review what happened. Consider any changes in perception and notice what pleased and displeased you throughout the events. Identify areas which you could improve upon but also give yourself credit for the areas that you tackled well.
And you don’t have to take my word for it, I’ve found some real life stories to demonstrate that one set back or mistake will not define your life not condemn your future:
No one wanted to hire Walt Disney as an artist. In fact, he could not get hired elsewhere either. So, his brother got him a temporary job. Walt’s first animation studio went bankrupt. He went on to co-find The Walt Disney Company.
Steve Jobs was fired from the company he founded- Apple. He also failed with NeXT computer company and the Lisa computer. When Jobs return to Apple, he led the business to become the most profitable company in the US.
The Beatles were rejected by numerous record labels including Decca Records, which said, ‘guitar groups are on the way out’ and ‘the Beatles have no future in show business’. The Beatles did wind up getting signed by a record label and sold more singles in the UK than anyone else.
When JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book, she was divorced, bankrupt and on welfare. After a dozen publishers rejected her manuscript, one finally agreed to publish it. But the publisher told Rowling that she needed to get a job because there was no money in children’s books. She is now a billionaire.
I hope you have finished reading this blog with the reassurance that set backs are a natural occurrence and that no one can navigate through life without times when they have had to deal with a difficult or disappointing situation. But, by adopting a systematic strategy for dealing with it and learning how to come back stronger you’ll find there’s often opportunity for personal development and success.