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  • Writer's pictureHumans of International Studies

CHIRAZ (3rd year)

“I feel like we live in a society in which competition to achieve and get as much as we can on our CVs is the norm.

I always defined myself as the girl who achieves, has to achieve, and overachieves. During the third semester of online uni however, I didn’t « achieve » much: I hugely fell behind on uni for the first time.

But if I don’t overachieve, let alone achieve the « norm », then who am I?

Eventually, I came to the point where I decided to drop one class, to take care of myself and my (mental) health. That was the starting point

, when I started to teach myself how to distinguish the different drivers behind my choices to do things. Now, I try to ask myself: Do I want to participate in this because I am interested in it, and it would teach me something valuable; or is my driving motivator behind my potential choice the fear of not being good enough? Secondly, is it a healthy choice personally to take on this additional responsibility - do I have the space, not only time-wise but also mentally, to do this?

Having to drop a class and taking a step back from this mindset of needing to deliver all the time at full capacity led me to rethink how we define failure. Because I feel like dropping out of that one class wasn’t failing, it was winning. Winning against this pressure of having to do everything and it was winning against my fears of not being good enough. So, I think if you change your definition of what failure is and if you realize that failure would be failing to recognize what your body needs - then that can take away so much pressure. I believe that it is important to share this since I’ve realised when running into people on campus and talking to them, this openly communicated vulnerability creates spaces in which healthier norms are formed. When asked about it, people would at first be surprised about me dropping a course - yet, eventually, they would come forth with their own stories about feeling overwhelmed or dropping courses themselves too. Figuring out your own healthy boundaries and priorities and communicating your “failures” with others can create a much more open and less stigmatised environment.” (Chiraz, 3rd year, Tunisia/ The Netherlands)

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