What If I Am Not Good Enough?
By Salina Shafi
Hi everyone! This is the second article in our Gen Z series, focusing on academic validation. Students today face enormous amounts of academic pressure, and it can get difficult to navigate the stress that comes with being a student facing competition from their peers. This article discusses healthy methods to target stress, and to live a better and more mindful life. Happy Reading!
Lack of Motivation.
It was a never-ending slope.
Tick, Tick, Tick, the clock’s obnoxious ticking brought me back to reality. I could practically hear the clock murmuring about what time it was, mocking my incompetence. I was almost thankful for it since it pulled me out of a dark train of thought. Now, all I could think about were the three assignments looming over my head as they sat in my calendar impatiently waiting to be completed. They weren’t technically due until the end of tomorrow, but if I don’t sleep now, I won’t get more than five hours of sleep, which meant I would wake up late, which would mean that there’s a possibility that I would be late for my first lecture, which would mean that I wouldn’t be able to see the professor work through the practice problems, which would mean that I won’t know how to do the problems for the exam, which means that I won’t do well on the exam, which would mean that my grade in the class would drop, which means I wouldn’t get into-.
Before my mind began to spiral, I tried to stop all the dreadful thoughts. But it was too late. The fear of becoming a disappointment crept along my spine and went into my brain. My thoughts wept because my eyes couldn’t. If I started to cry now, it wouldn’t end. All I knew was that if I didn’t finish it now, I wouldn’t have time in between my three lectures tomorrow to finish the assignments.
A break, perhaps that would help. Just 10 minutes of journaling, maybe that would be the cure. I felt almost guilty for wanting to take a break as this obviously wasn’t the time nor the place. It’s almost finals week. This week was my last chance to prove to myself that I’m worth more than a D. Deep down, I was afraid that the D represented who I was.
I tried to step away from my work and for what seemed like 2 minutes was actually 20 minutes. It still wasn’t enough. The entire time, those assignments loomed over my head. During my break, I attempted to map out how I would finish the assignments, and all would be well.
I felt stupid thinking that would even be possible. Taking that 20-minute break put me even more behind. I couldn’t fathom how that was even possible. Next week is finals week, which means these assignments are the last assignments I need to get done before the final exam.
Not everyone experiences this dread. This dread is known as the need for academic validation. This is a feeling that is unfortunately more commonly experienced than discussed. Academic Validation is when a student feels accomplished by their academic achievements and it can take on different forms depending on the person. Some students run after the rush of dopamine they get from having a 4.0 and then become deeply upset if they are not able to get to that rush while other students feel like their value is based on their grades. Academic validation can look different across different educational backgrounds and goals, but often enough, academic validation can attack one’s mental health. Some students consistently exchange their needs to fulfill their need of academic validation. It can only be a motivator for so long without becoming overwhelming or overpowering.
Educators have noticed that Gen Z has shown more signs of academic competition than previous students. They are more likely to share their grades and boast about them if they are good. This is an issue that is recently receiving more light and will continue to be researched. Across social media platforms, individuals are raising awareness on what academic validation looks like and how it can affect people. So many creators talked about how they had connected their identity to their grades or how they did in school. Their education began to overtake their lives in an unhealthy way. Their rooms were full of previous awards and current coursework, reminding them that their journey is not over and that they have a standard to uphold. Social media platforms help create a community for these individuals. Because the need for academic validation can stem from different needs, it can be difficult to determine the symptoms.
YOUR WORTH IS NOT MEASURED BY YOUR GRADES!
The problem is that this experience has become normalized, most commonly expressed as the “grind”. What truly needs to become normalized is accepting yourself and giving yourself grace. Many students sacrifice their mental health for academic validation when there are actually healthier ways to deal with the need for academic validation. Separating grades and self-worth is a huge step for many students. This can make all the difference.
Unfortunately there are not many general ways to deal with academic validation, this is a unique process for each individual. For some students, this feeling doesn't go away easily. It takes weeks, even months to cope with the side effects of what academic validation entails. It is a different process for everyone, something as simple as the end of the semester won’t cure this feeling.
Some ways to deal with Academic Validation brought to you by students like you:
Find a balance between school and your personal life.
I know this is easier said than done, but something as simple as a planner can help with this or finishing all homework at school.
Don’t forget to indulge in activities with your family and friends.
It can be easier to process your feelings when you have people around you.
They can help you escape feeling alone and support you.
Learn how to self-validate yourself! This process will not be the same for everyone, but acknowledging that you have progressed to come this far will help you feel a sense of achievement. One of the first steps for many students is to acknowledge the problem.
Understanding what academic validation is can help the individual understand and process what they are going through.
Acknowledgment of one’s academic validation can allow them to find a sense of community with others who are going through the same thing.
Attempt to understand your need for academic validation.
Why do you feel controlled by it?
Are there certain aspects that are worse?
Who is someone you can talk to?
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way on how to deal with the need for academic validation. Some people will talk to their teachers while others will battle their journey alone. If there is one thing you can take away from this article, it is that the need for academic validation can take a toll on one’s mental health. It is so important to remember to put your mental health first!
Thanks for reading the last article in our Gen Z series! We hope you learned about academic validation, and about how to better manage stress.
If you liked reading this article, please go check out our article regarding Gen Z problems during the COVID-19 pandemic, linked here. This article is written from the perspective of a student during the COVID pandemic, so the reader gets a unique view at the emotions the student is facing.
Until next time,
Salina and the Writing Committee :)
Bomhoff, S. (2021). Gen-Z strives for academic validation. Lincoln High School Statesman. Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://lhsstatesman.com/2021/02/gen-z-strives-for-academic-validation-15040/
How to look after your mental health at Exam Time. YoungMinds. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://www.youngminds.org.uk/young-person/blog/how-to-look-after-your-mental-health-during-revision-and-exams/
Kloza, K., Lavelle, C., & Siddiqui, M. (2021, December 22). We don't talk enough about academic validation. The Mountaineer. Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://www.mlmountaineer.org/we-dont-talk-enough-about-academic-validation/#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20best%20steps,way%20we%20live%20our%20lives.
Shuttleworth, C. (2021, September 17). 'What if my best isn't good enough?' my journey with academic success and validation at school. Inspire the Mind. Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://www.inspirethemind.org/blog/what-if-my-best-isnt-good-enough-my-journey-with-academic-success-and-validation-at-school