I know that we’ve all been here. This one, more than others.

The threat of academic validation and how we can come to build our entire sense of self around it. The stress, the peer pressure, the success and failure and above all else… the guilt. The fear of not having done enough constantly at war with our knowledge that we’re about to burnout. Knowing our limits but not believing them. Trying too hard and crashing anyway. Yep, we’ve all been there. 

We have so much to relearn.

Anxieties about what other people around us are doing is where much of this stems from. Sit down, make a brew and let me explain why, younglings. 

Life isn’t a game that can be won or lost on the basis of some arbitrary social markers. More than that, you can’t ‘succeed’ in life by living your life on someone else’s terms. Or indeed, by living someone else’s life. Simply doing what you think you ought to be doing won’t always bring you satisfaction, in fact it will rarely coincide with things that you yourself actually prioritise. Because of this, you will soon realise that the things around you that are offering the illusion of ‘self care’ and ‘self improvement’ are causing you undue stress.

This is because the pressure that you put on yourself to achieve them isn’t proportional or tempered by your emotional investment. As such, you are pushing yourself to do things that simply aren’t worth your time, or are worthwhile endeavours in principle, just not necessarily for you, personally.

Recognise something here?

It can be hard to step back and recognise the aspects of life that we have acclimatised to aren’t always things that we deserve to experience. We are often faced with the startling discovery that there is more to life than we know in our current experiences. There are pancake houses that we didn’t know existed. Friends that live around the corner who we never realised lived so close. Even going to the park in the afternoon on a dog walking day and seeing so many Chihuahuas that you thought you might die of cuteness. 

We all have that one friend that is too successful for her own good. You know the type, there’s always one in a friendship group. They have the best job, the most ambitious career prospects, the strongest relationship and the most interesting hobbies. They give the illusion of effortlessness, but I have some news for you. 

It’s not. 

The privilege of effortlessness is wrought from pain ad suffering and stress and anxiety just as much as on your end. Just because people put up facades and seem to be able to bear life easier, doesn’t mean that you should believe them. Nothing worth having was ever easy, and in fact life isn’t easy. It shouldn’t be, and if it was, the rewards we reap wouldn’t be worth it.

Do you see where I’m coming from here. Short-term success won’t always amount to long term benefits if we work ourselves to the ground before we can appreciate them. 

Everyone is insecure, and no one feels like they are winning at life.

Well, quite simply that’s because no one can actually ‘win’. Not in the epiphany-way that you think it will feel when you achieve your goals. instead, you will just get some steel in your eye and realise that you are climbing your own mountain. The fact that other people also have mountains to climb is besides the point. It shouldn’t impact or reroute your journey to the top, wherever that may be. 

Another hint – academic success can’t be wrought from constantly comparing yourself to the people around you. We’re all different – there’s always something different going on at home or in our heads. There are different standards in operation.

Different rules that we make for ourselves. 

If you get a grade back and feel more satisfied that you got higher than so and so rather than being happy in yourself, then that’s a problem. The inherent need to compete with each other, or the threat that success is finite. There’s only a certain number of spaces in colleges or jobs, for example. That mindset permeates so much of the academic spaces. 

But life is more forgiving than that. Life isn’t about just jobs and money. Oftentimes, the jobs you think you should want aren’t even the jobs you end up applying for, after all that. 

So try to know yourself, and crack down on what it is that you actually want. 

It might not even be academic success.

If it’s not, don’t let it compromise your mental health in the now and the future.

It’s not worth it.