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Thursday, 4 August 2016

Marks are not everything - Ask your counsellor Q&A column

[The following column written by me appeared in the Deccan Herald Education supplement of August 4, 2016]

Dear Madam,
Over the past few years, I have faced a lot of difficulties to be a topper. However, despite this, I still feel alone and hated by everyone. I constantly feel angry with my friends for not understanding me and my situation.

As a result, they have stopped talking to me. While I do acknowledge this, I have trouble overcoming this feeling of hate. How do I improve? What are the ways that I can use to curb my anger?
A student

Dear Student,
It seems that till now you have focussed on being a topper, and having got there, you now are feeling you have missed out on other aspects of life like friendships and relationships. You are expecting people to be charitable towards you because you are a topper, but generally what matters most to people is how someone relates to them and how they make them feel, not what someone has achieved. It is always important to bear this in mind.

Success in marks is only one aspect of success and plays a very limited role in ultimate success in life. It is wise to spend some time thinking about what success in life would mean to you and start living by those principles. Better late than never. Anger is always a secondary emotion. You don’t just get angry – you get angry because some other primary emotional need is not being met.

Maybe you are feeling lonely, or isolated, or ignored. It is helpful to be able to address your underlying emotional need and then work with a counsellor to help you deal with it. You don’t need to curb your anger. You need to understand your anger so that you can express it meaningfully and bring about changes to deal with it. The feeling of anger is okay. It is the inappropriate expression of the anger that sometimes becomes a problem.

Dear Madam,
I am doing my Masters in English. My life has been on a roller coaster and quite depressing. Most of the time, I am not able to concentrate in the class and don’t mingle with friends. On top of everything, I get less marks in exams. I don’t eat properly and don’t even get good sleep. I am worried about my future and literally do not know will I ever settle in life. Please guide me.
A student

Dear Student,
Everyone’s life is a roller coaster with ups and downs. However, when you go through a down phase it seems like that is the end of everything. But remember in a roller coaster, there are steep down phases followed by steep up phases. The down always ends with an up, and the up always ends with a down. Nothing is permanent and this keeps changing. The same often happens in life.

Sometimes when we are anxious we get immobilised into inaction, are unable to concentrate and focus, unable to sleep and eat because we predict a future negative outcome that is scary. Try and understand what is this negative outcome that you are predicting will happen in the future and why are you finding that scary.

It will be very helpful for you to get the help of a counsellor to deal with your anxieties and believe in your own capabilities to handle whatever situation life throws your way. If you cannot meet a counsellor face to face, please reach out to the free Parivarthan counselling helpline at 080 65333323 where you can reach a counsellor who will be able to help you.

Dear Madam,
Sometimes, I feel no one in my life takes me seriously. Be it my friends in college or my parents or anyone else, it feels like my opinion doesn’t matter at all. Sometimes, I think everyone looks down upon me, as someone who is ignorant about everything in life. This puts me down and makes me lose confidence. So, I think ten times before saying something again. What do I do?
An ignored girl

Dear Ignored Girl,
How would you know that people are taking you seriously? How would you know that your opinion is valued? It is generally helpful to bear in mind that people around us reflect back to us what we think and believe about ourselves. What others think about you is not that important. It is what you think about yourself that holds the key. Believe in yourself. Know and acknowledge your strengths.

That is what makes you feel stronger about yourself. And when you feel stronger, you behave in a more confident and self-assured way. When you behave that way people automatically start taking you seriously and take your opinions into account. When you feel weak about yourself, you tend to behave in a diffident way, lacking confidence.

This generally gets picked up by the people around you and they don’t take you seriously. So, it is not about what they think of you. It is more about what you think about yourself. And to help you change your beliefs about yourself it may be helpful to get the support of a counsellor, unless you have some trusted adults who can help you.

Dear Madam,
Often, I am told that I shouldn’t learn the subjects through rote learning. But I believe that’s the only way I can score good grades in my exams. My professors often advise me to interpret concepts in my own way and then put that on the paper. But, I can only learn if I memorise all the answers which are provided by them. After all, aren’t good marks necessary in life? Kindly help me out here. What’s the way to go?
A confused student

Dear Student,
Good marks may open a few doors for you, get you admission into some college, get you a job interview, etc. However, those are very short-term goals. Ultimately what you make of those opportunities will not depend on the marks you get. Learning how to learn, and applying your learning are concepts that will stay with you for life.

Success in life has very little to do with marks. You may get 100% marks and still not be successful because of life skills that you have not focussed on. Some of the skills that will help you go a long way towards your success are having the ability to keep learning as you go along, being creative, being able to solve problems, being able to work in a team, being able to lead a team, being able to communicate well, and being hard-working and diligent, among other things.

None of these have anything to do with the marks you get in your next exam. So focus on the long-term – it will pay off in the long-term. All the best.

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