As the new academic year commences, students often find themselves pressured to fit into society's expectations, draining themselves to achieve some academic pleasure. In their pursuit of academic validation, they often end up sacrificing their mental well-being in the process. Though the idea of academic success might seem alluring, it is more complex than that.
When students achieve good grades, their fixation on academic achievement only intensifies, leading them to work harder and longer each day. Let's take a look and discover the scientific meaning of academic validation, its causes, and its harmful side effects on each individual.
What Is Academic Validation?
Wilfrid Laurier University describes academic validation as "relating one’s self-worth to its grades." It can even be described as an addiction, when a person's only identity becomes their performance at school and whether their educators congratulate them for it or not. While academic validation is a good motivator in some cases, striving excessively for success may harm your mental health enormously.
How many times did your class clap for an exceptional student who happened to present a "perfect" presentation? How many times have parents praised their children for getting amazing test scores? While these words can be satisfying for just a minute, people do not realize the amount of work this student has done to achieve these 100s. After each clap and every pleasing word, children start to base their entire self-worth on academic achievements and feel like a failure when they don't exceed their expectations.
Additionally, naturally gifted kids who have had exceptional reading levels since elementary school tend to enter high school with a strong desire to maintain their high-level achievements. To do so, they often join over five clubs and try to fill each free hour of their schedule with activities. However, the high-pressure season of exams that hits them in high school, makes it harder for them to manage their time effectively: much more difficult than in middle school. This can eventually lead to them feeling burned out and overwhelmed.
Why do Students Strive For Academic Success?
Many students think the only way they can make their parental figures proud is by being the top students in their class and always obtaining the highest marks. Due to some cultural preferences, students are partially affected and want to live up to their reputation and image. For instance, many parents often talk about their child's achievements to the public, or to other parents. Thus, the child might feel the need to overwork himself in order to keep his parent's honor.
Other kids look up to fictional characters on TV shows and movies, such as Rory Gilmore in the 2000s reality TV show Gilmore Girls, and Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movie series. It's important to note that these characters are fictional, which means that you cannot sacrifice your social life and self-care time to study all day and night like these characters.
Rory Gilmore is seen spending most of her time cramming for exams and overworking herself, which leads to her being burned out and dropping out of Yale later in the show. Idealizing these characters is great and all, but remember that it is unrealistic to try and mimic their actions.
The Harmful Side-effects Behind Academic Validation
Comprehensive research has revealed that a significant number of secondary school and higher education students experience excessive stress related to academic demands. This stress arises from various factors, including the pressure to perform well in tests and exams, meet assignment deadlines, and excel in extracurricular activities.
Unfortunately, this type of stress has an impact on the student's academic performance and general well-being. For example, students who experience high levels of anxiety during testing often perform poorly, leading to low test scores and decreased motivation to continue with their studies. In severe cases, academic stress can even result in school dropouts.
The negative effects of academic stress extend beyond the classroom, leading to other mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Other physical symptoms such as sleep disturbances and substance use, highlight the harmful effects of academic stress on students' overall health and well-being.
It is essential to recognize the pressure that high-achieving students face and offer them the proper guidance and support to help them manage their time and stress levels effectively.
How To Overcome Academic Validation?
There are so many ways that can help you overcome your need for academic validation. Keep in mind that not every tip will work for you, since everyone is different! To find out which one works best, explore these different types of methods.
1. Be Kind To Yourself
At times, it becomes important to take a break from studying and treat oneself with kindness. The conditions around us may not always be in our favor, and that's alright. Our present circumstances do not limit us. Sometimes, we may not be able to perform to our best potential due to a variety of reasons; it could be due to illness, feeling overwhelmed, or experiencing burnout.
Whatever the reason may be, it is necessary to be kind to ourselves and not overly pressure ourselves to excel. Practicing self-compassion can help us in this regard. We can start by speaking positively about ourselves and limiting negative self-talk.
Instead of constantly berating ourselves for making mistakes on an exam and convincing ourselves of being a failure, we must remember that we are humans, and it is okay to make mistakes. Our worth is not determined by our test scores, and no one will judge us for it.
2. Stop Comparing Yourself With Others
As someone who has suffered with academic validation for years, I can't stress enough how important it is to stop self-comparison with other people. Comparing yourself with other people will destroy your morals, demotivating you to the point that you don't care about achieving good grades at all.
Personally, I always competed with my smart best friend to see who would achieve the best grades, but in his point of view, he never cared about it. I was just the one who strived to get the best grades in our friendship, and in the end, my average was still below his. Looking back at how I used to compare myself to him and how I used to be such a toxic friend, I regret it all. Years later, I lost that friend and there was nothing I could do to restore the friendship.
You should totally learn from my experience and stop comparing yourself with others. You're only burdening yourself, and your appointment can be disinterested in the whole contest thing.
3. Staying True To Yourself
Trusting yourself is a game-changer when relying on your opinions and doing what feels best for you. Countless times, you prioritize your parent's opinion of your grades more than yourself. When you get a 90 on a hard exam, spend most of your weekend studying and someone tells you that you should've scored higher, all you need to do is ignore their opinion and focus on yourself.
If you want to join an interesting club, but your friends keep telling you that it's lame and you sound like a nerd, you simply dismiss their opinion and go with your view. If you don't join that club, no one else will do it for you. You will spend most of your time regretting it.
This tip also applies to other areas of life! If you want to build trust in yourself, one step you could take is to try to be more decisive. Instead of relying on people's opinions, depend on yourself.
4. No One Is Perfect
It's important not to hold yourself to unrealistic standards when studying and preparing for exams. Putting in long hours of study may not necessarily equate to a perfect score, while conversely, a shorter review session could lead to passing the test. Your mindset and mental well-being play crucial roles in your academic performance.
Therefore, it's essential to prioritize your health over academics. By doing so, you will experience less stress and anxiety, and your exam results will improve significantly.
Exercising puts your mind off academics, ensuring you become stress-free when doing sports or going to the gym. I have fallen in love with the habit of playing basketball whenever I'm anxious about anything in life, whether it is my academics or extracurricular activities. I always feel free and can tackle any daunting tasks afterward. It's safe to say that exercising plays a huge role in obtaining better physical health, but the impact it has on your mental well-being is even more efficient.
Research has found that physical activity can improve memory and reduce anxiety or depression. Furthermore, engaging in frequent physical activity can lower your chances of experiencing cognitive decline, such as dementia. Personally, I like to take walks before and after my exams, as it helps calm down my nerves and reflect on what went right and wrong while going through the exam.
I have suffered from academic validation in the past, and I certainly know how hard it can be to overcome it. Sometimes you can hear your mind saying that you didn't study enough, even after spending many long hours doing work. While it is a challenging process, you shouldn't give up at all.
I believe in you and you should believe in yourself too! I'm sure that everything will get better soon enough.
It's been a fun journey getting to know more about academic validation. I hope that this article has helped a few of you readers, and I can't wait to write more. Catch you in my next article, adios.