Why "Pick-a-Partner" Stirs Up Anxiety

Picture this: You’re in high school in a class where everybody seems to be buddy-buddy with each other except for you. You’re too shy to make friends in this class. You just want to secure the grades and mind your own business. You’re ready to blast out of class the minute the bell rings. And then the teacher drops the news, right as you’re packing your bag:

“By the way, everybody needs to pick a partner for the project”. 

Palms sweaty, bell rings, you swing your bag over your shoulder and slip out the door. As if homework wasn’t enough already, you’re daunted with the task of finding a partner. 

Yes, you know it’s only for a small project. It’s not like you’re picking your lifetime partner or something. But somehow, the feeling of asking “do you want to be partners?” sounds only a few steps away from “Do you want to go to prom with me?” or “Do you want to marry me?” 

Even now as a fully grown woman and university student, strutting down Ryerson’s downtown campus with the utmost busy-city-girl chic energy making no eye contact with any passerbys, you still get a little clammy-hand when group projects are assigned. Whether it be on Zoom or whatever: Some things never change. How do you pick a partner? Even once you land with a partner or a group team, you end up anxious and afraid. 

Or perhaps you’re a solo go-getter, love to get things done but feel like your teams always drag you down. 

Either you are the slacker or you’re the one doing everything for everyone else: which leads to burnout and distrust. 

Regardless: group projects always suck for you. But why? 

According to this article, “a study about group work argues that collaborative learning tasks may unfairly disadvantage students with below-the-surface challenges, such as anxiety, autism, or other issues that interfere with effective social interactions.”

It’s rarely seen this way: but the slacker-attitude or get-everything-done-asap-attitude are both linked to circumstances often out of the student’s control like anxiety or other aspects of neurodivergence. 

Academic systems encourage group work because they say it’s closer to real life: you’re going to have to work with people who you’re not comfortable with sooner or later.

But do you really? How often is it that you take up passion projects with people you don’t trust? Trust takes time to build: do we trust the other person would finish their part? To keep their word?

And you have to trust yourself too. Trust yourself that you’ll do your best, and try your best. 

Whatever the reason is: you’re a champion, I hear you. You’re a queen, I trust in you. You have determination within you. Picking partners is hard: for projects, for love life, for anything.

But as long as you don’t undermine your worth, nobody else can. 

Believe in yourself, because your life is a lifelong project: and if there’s any partner you’ll have forever, it’s yourself. 

Now go ace it, secure the bag and get that paper. And block your toxic ex while you’re at it.