No matter what university you attend, I guarantee that you’ve heard one of the following phrases at least once:
“I didn’t study for this at all, I’m screwed.”
“I literally know none of this.”
“I stayed up all night studying for this.”
“I have no idea what I’m doing.”
“I’m going to do so bad on this quiz/paper/exam.”
“Yeah I definitely failed that.”
Or even worse, the person that says “yeah I definitely failed that,” and ends up getting an A.
These are all actual phrases that I have heard either my friends or my classmates say. Even I myself have probably said a few of these at one point.
My question is “Why is it suddenly a thing to talk about how awful we perform (or think we perform) in the classroom?” If we see someone talking about how prepared they are for an exam or talking about the good grade they received on a paper we label them as bragging or even “nerdy,” but when did that make it okay to reverse everything and make it okay to shame ourselves? I’ve been in situations where it almost seems like we’re competing to see who is the most unprepared for an exam rather than the other way around. I’ve seen this to so much of a degree that I purposefully come to exam days late just so that I don’t have to listen to the jumbled chaos of a pity party that goes on. Why don’t we take those 15 minutes before class and actually study instead of laughing and complaining about how unprepared we are?
While I understand that some use humor and laughing as a coping mechanism to decrease the reality of a stressful situation, we are not setting ourselves nor others up for success when we treat failure and bad study habits as a joke. Let me repeat that for emphasis: we are not setting ourselves nor others up for success when we treat failure and bad study habits as a joke. As much as we can joke about not getting the grades we want, it still hurts most of us at the end of the day. We should be focusing on the positives of our own abilities and using this positivity to inspire others to do better. Although the desire to compare ourselves to others in the classroom will probably exist until the end of time, it shouldn’t exist in the way that it does today. Not only is it toxic for people to procrastinate and then brag about it, but it’s even more toxic when they receive praise for doing so. In participating in this, you are also implying that your last-minute, mess of work that was just thrown together is better than work that was diligently and carefully prepared for hours on end. This usually isn’t the case, but it makes those who prefer the latter category feel ashamed for being a good student and for actually doing what is expected of them.
From now on, let’s be conscious of how we talk about our studying habits and recognize how it could affect other people. Let’s focus on our positives and turn negative outcomes into goals for the future. Instead of saying “I did so bad on that last quiz lmao kms” to your bestie, try saying something along the lines of “I know now I need to spend extra time on this material, please hold me accountable.” This sets you up for an opportunity to improve whereas in the first situation the other person would literally have no idea what to say–like honestly, what are you supposed to say back to that without offending them or demeaning yourself? When you see someone using this kind of language, do your best to turn it around on a positive note. Offer suggestions–maybe you go to the library or a coffee shop together, start a study group, or plan a timeline of when you should start studying for the final or start drafting that term paper. I promise that changing your language and mindset about failure will have a ripple effect, leaving both you and others with a better attitude and relationship with academics.