Lauren Richards Headshot

It’s that time of the year again: the time of all-nighters, library rush hour and daydreams of summer vacation. We all have our preferred study methods, whether that be the Pomodoro Technique or jamming to low-fi beats. No one method is guaranteed to work for everyone, except one — self-encouragement.

I know what you may be thinking — not another gushy self-love propaganda piece. At this point, this type of advice has been run into the ground so much it’s almost cliche. As overstated and redundant as self-care rhetoric may be, however, there is no denying how pernicious self-doubt is.

Negative self-talk is something we’ve all done at some point, but it’s far from helpful. Not only does low self-esteem negatively impact academic performance, but it also prevents us from making the most out of our learning. According to the American Psychological Association, “Low self-esteem or lack of confidence leaves students doubting their ability to succeed, making them hesitant to engage in learning or take appropriate academic growth risks.” As a result, we may lose out on opportunities for improvement.

Poorer academic performance isn’t the only downside to a self-defeating mentality. Very Well Mind states that self-doubt can lead to an increase in mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, as well as interfere with our ability to form healthy relationships.

One way to overcome this hurdle is to change the way we think about anxiety-inducing situations. In psychology, the process of reframing a thought or emotion in a positive way is called cognitive reappraisal. It essentially works as so: You have butterflies going into an exam or presentation, but instead of labeling this feeling as “anxiety” or “panic,” you call it “excitement.” Now, it’s not about trying to calm yourself down but embracing the task at hand with enthusiasm.

As it turns out, individuals who practice reappraisal don’t just feel better about a stressful situation — they also do better. In a study from the Harvard School of Business, Alison Brooks found that individuals who reappraised their feelings before speaking in public or taking a math test outperformed their peers. In other words, the way we think about our experiences impact the way we behave.

Aside from relabeling feelings, there are a few other ways to practice cognitive reappraisal. Another is positive reframing, which involves finding the positives in a challenging situation. For instance, you may believe that exams suck, but you can also see them as a chance to showcase your knowledge or another step towards graduation.

A third method is examining the evidence. This process involves evaluating and challenging how you interpret a situation. This could look like asking yourself the likelihood of receiving a bad grade or failing, considering your overall performance in a class. When you really think about it, you may discover that your odds aren’t as bad as you previously believed, or even if they are, that it won’t be the end of the world if things don’t turn out the way you want.

In addition to practicing these techniques, make sure to take advantage of what’s happening on campus. De-Stress Fest is April 24 through May 3 and will feature various activities to help students relax. Among the events are Bracelets in the Brickyard, where you can receive your own bracelet-making kit, and my personal favorite, Pause for Paws, which entails therapy dogs and healthy doses of cute aggression.

As college students, low-self esteem is something many of us are familiar with. I’m sure we can all recall a time at NC State where we felt out of place and unsure of our chances of success. With finals just around the corner, this feeling of imposter syndrome is all the more present. With that being said, we should all strive to challenge these thoughts and assumptions and see the silver lining. When we do that, we may actually find that we’re not so bad after all.

Staff Columnist

My name is Lauren Richards and I am a second-year studying psychology. I joined the Opinion section in 2021 as I hope to spark dialogue around issues that matter.

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