My biggest accomplishment is acceptance. Our generation is hard wired to be comparative and competitive in nature. In high school, it was harder to learn anything because of the importance of grades. The moment I would get interested in a topic; it would be time for another midterm and that didn’t let me fully learn anything. I know it’s a weakness being motivated only by things I am passionate about. It’s something I’m working on, especially by trying to keep the things I’m doing in perspective. I say this because it’s important to do the things that are expected of me, even if I’m not very passionate about it.
I understand the importance of grades in a systematic sense and I cannot think of anything else to be used as an assessment, but it was hard to cope with. Exams rarely solidified any content in my head. The more I thought about grades, the more anxiety I had and the less I scored. It was very counter-intuitive. In fact, the moment my grade slipped, I would give up trying to score a 100, and surprisingly, that’s when I would score my highest. That made me wonder, does caring less mean I score more? Of course, there is no logic in that.
At Pitt, I decided to get some help because I truly accepted that this is an issue and something’s wrong. The counselor made me realize; my brain had changed and rewired itself to see tests as a big threat. Why? This is because I was worried about the consequences of that test all the time. My thought process looked a lot like this – Does missing one question mean I will not be getting an A? If I do not get an A, I will not be getting into a good college, what would that mean for my career?
I did not consciously think this during the test but these “background thoughts” reinforced me to think that missing one question on the test meant me jeopardizing my future. I get how silly that sounds. But the truth is, no emotions are logical. It is a common saying that ‘love makes people do silly things’, but so does fear. Scientifically, when your “fear-center”, the Amygdala, takes control of the driving, your prefrontal cortex (handles attentions + goal making) and your frontal cortex (handles cognitive processing, problem-solving, impulse control), are put on the back seat. Fear literally changes your brain. So, when I “didn’t care as much”, I scored better because it was my way of letting go and accepting that what’s done is done and I just need to try solving the questions. I momentarily broke this cycle of the amygdala jumping in the driver’s seat and causing havoc. Personally, the way to overcome this was to retrain your thinking and strive to become fearless. But the first step was the acceptance of what I’m dealing with.
At Pitt, I felt this burden lift off. I missed learning and so that is what I decided to focus on in college. Every time I made a mistake, instead of tearing myself down, I uplifted myself saying “Okay. Now you know!” and made sure to put effort into remembering the outcome of that mistake. The classes I took really helped me with this. All the professors are so passionate about their subjects and I think my curiosity really found a place to grow. If there’s anything you take away from this blogpost, please push yourself to achieve the thing you want to. There are no bad outcomes when you’re in college because everything should be a learning experience and you should tell yourself, “Now you know”. This applies to things you should or shouldn’t do. However, I do want to specify, please don’t take this phrase to credit lazy behavior – you ALWAYS need to be working your 100% to succeed.
(If you are someone who is motivated to work with the fear of a bad outcome, that’s totally normal too, but it’s just not what worked for me!)
This phrase really helped me be fearless about failures and I started to push myself out of my comfort zone. I applied for leadership positions and finally got over the fear of being judged in any way. This led to the many things I’ve accomplished and am proud of: Getting the Archival scholar’s research award (Spring’21), CNUP summer undergraduate research program fellowship (Summer 2021), becoming the Vice president of NuRhoPsi (2021-22), the Relay Chair (2020-21) for Gamma Sigma Sigma at Pitt and many have held TA positions. Additionally, even doing the bare minimum – asking professors questions is something I was scared of, but the “now I know” mentality pushed me to ask my questions, and eventually was the roadway to building a good student-professor relationship with many of my professors.
These accomplishments were mainly because I got out of my shell and put myself out there. There are so many things we can do, and if we just took things as a learning experience, the tasks we set out to do are so much more fun and enjoyable. After all, what would be life be like if it were only the ups? Mistakes, learning, and recovery – these are all things that give us perspective. You only know the high when you’re feeling low so trust yourself and take one step at a time!