We’ve all been there. Studying for an exam with a small group of friends. You’re going over a topic that isn’t your strongest (maybe coagulation cascade??). Suddenly, everyone can describe the pathway without missing a beat while you are struggling to remember what activates platelets. Instead of asking for help or explaining how you haven’t had a chance to review it, you sit there quietly and hope the conversation passes you over. Your mind starts to wonder how everyone has perfected it so quickly. Are you behind? Are they studying better than you? Have you been paying enough attention in class? Are you just taking up space in Fry 22? Cue: existential crisis!
I wish this didn’t plague my mind as much as it did, but I am human, and I let my brain’s never-ending turmoil affect me for at least 12 hours. During orientation week, faculty warned us of the dangers of getting in our heads and comparing ourselves to others, yet here I am letting my insecurity take over. I desperately needed to get my mojo back, so I channeled that negative energy into my studying. What ensued was the most productive solo-studying I’ve had all semester long. With that extra motivation, I was able to truly understand the concepts so that I could feel prepared the next time I studied with my peers. But the more I thought about it, the more I worried about how my new-found confidence would affect others still reviewing the material. How will I know whether or not my classmates are feeling the same way I had felt? I certainly don’t want to cause stress for any of my friends. Cue: continuous overthinking!
*** fast forward two weeks ***
After finishing the first wave of midterms, I wish I could have told myself to stop worrying and letting comparisons occupy my thoughts. Just because I couldn’t recite the coagulation cascade on that specific night does NOT mean I will never be able to! After going over the material a few more times, I felt like I could teach it to my dog if I wanted to (well not really, but shoutout to my adorable Shih Tzu, Kiwi, back at home in Maryland).
My point is everyone studies with different techniques and at different paces. Whether it’s a full sprint or a comfortable jog, in groups of 4 or as a recluse at home, no two of us will reach the finish line in the same way, but we will ALL get there eventually. These differences make us unique and are our strengths when we come together to collaborate. There is a collaborative culture within my class and throughout the entire college of optometry, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Studying in groups does have its benefits, but if you find it more stressful than helpful, try minimizing the group size to just 1-2 others, or don’t force it all! We are all susceptible to our minds playing mean tricks on our mental well-being. While none of my classmates have ever made school feel like a competition, I still fell victim to self-doubt. It is important to not let social comparisons distract us from what make us really unique, and this is applicable in all facets of life. For the next round of midterms, I will be more cognizant of this – so that I will stop feeling down on myself every time I don’t remember something and just start studying (preferably earlier this time around)!