Healthy Mind

Why it’s okay not to be the perfect student

We are told we have to do our very best all our lives and to push ourselves to do well in life but at what point do we push ourselves overboard? Are we really doing more harm than good in our desire to be perfect? Emily Bodkin asks: is it ever okay to be just good enough?

It is a well-known fact that students are particularly vulnerable to depression. Many factors can cause depression but an area that needs to be looked is the pressure students put on themselves.

Students take on as many tasks as possible, doing extra bits of work, all in the name of living up to their own expectations and high standards. Working yourself into the ground isn’t going to do much good though; all that will do is lead to stress and anxiety.

A study in the Netherlands showed that final year dentistry students were suffering from burnout and emotional exhaustion due to their workload.  With the unemployment rate at 12.50% and over 50,000 people leaving Ireland according to the Central Statistics office, it’s no wonder students are pushing working harder than ever. A good degree will hopefully lead to some sort of decent job. The pressure is on everybody.  Any sort of slip up in their studies or part-time job and that could cost them in the future.

Fear of the future can leave anyone desperate to prove themselves. Uncertain of what they want to do they try everything to maximise their potential. But is being uncertain about life really such a negative? Indecisiveness is a part of life and gives us a chance to really think of different options instead of running blindly into situations or choosing a career without researching other paths. Not being sure of where you are heading is nothing to be worried; the majority of people haven’t a clue of where they will end up.

If you ever feel as if you are not good enough or feel as if you cannot cope, ask yourself whether everyone else is doing as much you are?  The chances are that you are doing far more than the people around you so ease up on yourself.

Do what you can and not what you think you feel you need to do. A lot of students say they feel as if they need to live up to their parents expectations; dating back to their childhood.  Some parents put pressure on their children to achieve, leaving the always feeling as if they can never get anything other than excellent in exams.

Parental pressure can be just as detrimental as peer pressure. A study published in the Journal of Child and Family studies found that children of pushy parents “ended up having higher levels of depression, decreased satisfaction with life and lower levels of autonomy and competence.”

It’s important for people to realise that their parents aren’t the ones doing the degree; while they help fund your education they aren’t the ones it will impact the most. Work hard for yourself, not for others. 

Being a well-rounded student who does more than just study is better than any exam result or the perfect first class honours degree. Employers look for diversity when recruiting employees so if you didn’t get the top grade you hoped for; it might not make much of a difference. Your extra-curricular activities and your hobbies are what really make you stand out; not just your academic abilities.

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EBodkin.