If you get good grades, you probably heard these words many times: “you are so smart, you don’t even have to try, everything comes to you so easily!” But the truth it – you aren’t just “that smart,” you certainly do have to “try,” and things do not “come easily” at all. Success carries just as much, if not more, hard work, stress and anxiety as struggling does! I can vouch for that myself.
Meeting the expectations
Stress and anxiety is often associated with struggling students – after all, that next grade can make the difference between a C or a D, between passing or failing, between getting that certification or not. But what of those who already get good grades and score high on exams? While “struggling” students may be stressing about failing a test, the “successful” students not only stress about failing a test, but have a whole additional source of anxiety – the expectations. Since “good students” consistently do well, they are expected to continue doing well. Doing poorly would not only mean getting a bad grade or failing a test; it would also mean disappointing your peers, teachers and parents. True, past successes may give us more confidence in our abilities, but the “cost” of failing is much greater, often offsetting that benefit.
Reaching for help is more challenging too
Being successful may also mean getting help is more difficult. If others see you struggle, they are not surprised when you ask for their assistance, or talk about how hard your last exam was. But if you are doing well? Why in the world would you ask anyone for help or complain about the difficulty, you’re supposed to be smart! Many of us who “do well” feel like maybe we don’t have the right to complain, that since we “know” we can get good grades then we should automatically be confident, that we have no right to stress out. And so, if we do ask for help, we will face the same strange reactions a failure would bring. The expectation of doing well is not only a source of stress in class and on tests, but can also prevent successful students from getting help when they do need it; and after all, everyone has their limitations and could use an extra hand once in a while.
My own experience
My parents have brought me up to be an (over) achiever, which I cannot be ungrateful for – as I mentioned in my other post, I have been doing pretty well thanks to that. But that does not mean I had an easy time growing up and going to school! I remember the first time I flat-out failed a spelling bee in 3rd grade. I came home nervous, anxious to tell my parents about it. Not because the small pop-quiz (that could re-take no less!) would have any tangible impact on my grades, but because I knew the disappointment, and even anger, that would invariably come from my parents. As if the teacher’s surprise after they handed me the test back wasn’t enough! Worse yet, I was reluctant to talk to my friends about how I felt. I never mentioned my struggles before, so why would I struggle now? Why would I need help? Was I getting dumber? Were my glory days over? Not only have I failed, but I had no one to turn to in order to ease my mind and fears.
It took me many years to learn to really trust my own skills, and turn from being a Stressed Successful Student into a Confident one. This road was definitely rocky, and not without many failures on the way. But through my previous and future posts, I hope to outline at least some of the methods and ideas that have helped me to do that. And that is also why I have stuck around for so long working with Janet and Reed on bringing WisdomOfLearning.com to life. I can see what a great tool it can be in dealing with stress and building confidence, not just for the struggling student, but the already successful ones who are suffering from just as much, if not more, anxiety and pressure. So if any of my experiences I have been writing about ring true for you, I do encourage you to check out the program or bookmark this blog. Even if you don’t need “academic” help, getting some guidance on easing your fears and relaxing your mind will do wonders for your overall happiness and future success!