A Midterm Season-Inspired Diary Entry

As midterm season looms in the not-too-distant future, I feel my sense of self hang in the balance once again. Out of nowhere, I’m flooded with crippling self-doubt and feel the waves of guilt and fear come crashing down, wreaking havoc on my mental health. It’s during times like this when I reach for my fifth cup of (black) coffee and pick up my journal to write and attempt to clear my head. For once, I’m going to do this without my self-proclaimed writing pen or stationery and replace those with furious typing on a blank document. So, forgive me if this isn’t the easiest read; hopefully, it’s still as raw and open as I imagine it in my head.

I know that all through high school, I put my self-worth on a fickle pedestal and let my mental health hang on the precarious thread of achievement. Accomplishment was my motivator, and any sense of confidence or security came from praise I garnered for doing well. The flip side was that any time I didn’t win, or didn’t get an A, or messed up ever-so-slightly, I would punish myself. I couldn’t stand the possibility of not being at my best, and the pressure to constantly perform drove me into spiels of self-loathing. The irony reeks of cruelty, because after all, I wanted to achieve so that I would be better prepared for life. To do well in high school meant getting into the college of my dreams, and doing well there meant getting the job and career I always aspired to have...and so on. In reality, the self-critical clouds eclipsed my ability to be mentally ready for the real world. I’ve learned, in not the most pleasant of ways, that life outside high school is filled with challenges and more failures than success. It’s disproportionately more rejections, losses, and barely-Bs than 1st place victories. 

blonde woman with ponytail with her head in her hands leaning over a laptop

Yeah, that’s a bitter pill to swallow, and I’m resorting to blasting some Backstreet Boys to drown it all out. But, in the middle of it all, I’ve had an epiphany. I’ve realized, in some caffeine-addled, stress-crazed frenzy that the outcomes of a singular event do not matter. They do not define me, or my worth as a person. Over the past few days, I’ve lost my sleep and peace of mind over a letter. I’ve been so hard on myself and put my self-worth in the hands of a letter, or perhaps a number. One marker of performance, based on one test, has been allowed to spin circles with my wellbeing. The thought makes me want to laugh and recoil in horror at just what I’ve put myself through, not only during the past few days in college, but over all my years of schooling. 

They always tell you not to end by saying “In conclusion,” but oh, to hell, I’m going to do it anyway. In conclusion...you are valid, regardless of the outcome. Your thoughts, emotions, and desires — they’re all completely justified even if you don’t do as well as you intended. You owe yourself that much compassion and understanding. Above all, you are not the sum of your achievements and grades, and for the sake of your wellbeing in the long run, do not place something as fragile and valuable as your self-esteem in a capricious vat of midterms and grade bins. 

woman smiling at reflection in mirror

Thank you for reading this far and getting into the maze of thoughts competing for attention in my head right now. This is meant to be a full-disclosure narrative of what I’m going through right now. Hopefully, you’re able to relate to it and draw from your own experiences too.