Shame and guilt are feelings I experience a lot as a student, and I know some of you do too.

In this blog post I want to talk a bit more about these feelings and give you a way of reframing your studying and effort so you can truly see how well you’re doing.

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Studying guilt

If you’re like me, you have felt guilty for not studying after a day at work, even though you promised yourself you will.

Guilt due to taking an evening, day or week off of studying because you’re exhausted.
Guilt over procrastinating and submitting your essay just in the nick of time.
Shame that you must be lazy if you can’t seem to sit at your desk and concentrate for very long.

Redefine you’re ‘doing great’

When people ask how studying is going you smile weakly and say “fine” because that’s easier than explaining the 142 reasons why you think you’re failing.

You’re told by your friends and family and co-workers that you’re ‘doing great’ but you feel like you’re barely surviving with not a hint of thriving.

I’m going to share with you the caption from a recent Instagram post of mine that started some great conversations around what it means to be ‘doing great’.

“Last week I was really exhausted so I took a step back from my studies and business. Therefore, I didn’t reach a lot of the goals I set for myself so I feel like I’m not doing that great at the moment. But I think it’s time to redefine what ‘doing great’ is.”

Firstly, here’s what ‘doing great’ DOESN’T mean:

  • ‘Doing great doesn’t mean you’re working every possible moment
  • ‘Doing great’ doesn’t mean all you do is study
  • ‘Doing great’ doesn’t mean you have to be 100% efficient, all the damn time.
  • So what should ‘doing great’ mean instead?

  • ‘Doing great’ should mean making progress on your goals, however small the steps sometimes seem
  • ‘Doing great’ should mean you work hard and keep going when you experience challenges
  • ‘Doing great’ should mean you care for yourself by pulling back when you’re at risk of burnout.
  • We seem to believe ‘doing great’ has to mean that we’re being a perfect student. This is BS.

    There is no such thing as a perfect student. I’m not a perfect student and I still achieved a First Class degree while working full time. Success in life isn’t about being perfect.

    Work in progress how to stop feeling guilty about your studying

    Success comes from keeping a positive mindset, working hard and using the right study strategies.

    So I want you to give yourself permission to improve and strive to reach higher, AT THE SAME TIME AS recognising that you’re doing great right now.

    How to stop feeling guilty by celebrating your achievements

    We set stupidly high expectations for ourselves sometimes, and then beat ourselves up when we inevitably don’t meet them.

    I have a love/hate relationship with to do lists. I absolutely love how they make my brain less cluttered. But I also hate how shit they can make me feel. I’m a typical over-achiever so I’m not great at setting realistic expectations for what I can get done with my time and energy. Therefore, I often write mammoth to do lists that I can never complete.

    Surprise, surprise – when I reach the end of the day with half my tasks incomplete I feel like crap. My brain ignores what I did achieve and focuses instead on what I didn’t get done.

    This is explained by the phenomenon – the negativity bias. This is the notion that people tend to be influenced by negative experiences more than positive ones. For our ancestors, life was about survival. It made more sense for a caveman or cavewoman to miss out on opportunities (finding berries) than take risks and end up maimed or killed by a passing lion.

    But life is, thankfully, different today, though our negativity bias still exists.

    To combat this, we can make time to celebrate our achievements. Neuropsychologist and author, Rick Hanson, explains that our brains act like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.

    When we don’t meet our study goals, the memory of this negative experience hangs around and makes us feel guilty. So we have to work a little harder to make sure our accomplishments stick in our brains.

    Check out my recent blog post explaining 3 ways to celebrate your achievements. Spend a few minutes at the end of each and every study session recording the tasks you’ve completed. Note down everything, big or small, that you’ve achieved or made progress on. I want you to use this list as evidence that you are trying hard and really are doing great.

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