As most of you know I’m in my final few months of studying to become an occupational therapist and with these final months comes a lot of pressure and unfortunately this is mainly from myself!
Throughout my GCSEs and A-levels I worked hard and got the grades I needed in my final exams.
When my first year of my A-levels wasn’t as successful as planned I worked really hard in my second year to get my grades up and I did. I was very happy with the results. However, the pressure of exams gets to me and in my final exams my grades declined- I did also have other reasons for my grades being lower than expected (a very long story) but I know that a lot of it was a result of crumbling under pressure.
So, when I started university I didn’t put any pressure on myself to get amazing grades, partly because of past experiences and partly because I’d never worked at degree level before and didn’t know what to expect. When I got my first few grades I was pleasantly surprised, only one grade didn’t make the mark (I still passed), so I decided to aim high. I sounds like I’m bigging myself up here (sorry) but just stay with me I will get to the point.
Since I set myself my ‘aim high’ goal I’ve had very few grades that have matched my expectations. I know that my grades haven’t been ‘poor’ but I think they are.
So why do I put this pressure on myself?
After reflecting on this question a lot recently I now have a pretty good idea…
As mentioned above my previous GCSE and A-level grades where what I needed but not what I wanted. The results from my degree were going to be different which is why I put so much pressure on myself.
My grades this year have not been the best (to my expectations) have resulted in increasing my anxieties and creating a few sleepless nights. I know I still have plenty of scope to improve my grades to get what I want but I still can’t sleep, mainly because I also have the additional pressure of being a student with a disability.
A lot of people make assumptions about my intelligence because of my disability in which I have shared before. My high expectations don’t come from trying to prove to others what I can achieve ‘in spite of my disability’. I hate this saying, it comes from my own internalised ableism and feeling like I need to achieve more to be seen as worthy of my degree and therefore my place in society.
Reflecting on my school experience I remember how I was eventually moved up a set because I was put in the wrong sets which was initially based on the appearance of my disability (which I was openly told later). It was horrible feeling that people thought I was not intelligent- I’m only human. I think this started me on the journey proving that I’m just like everyone else.
When most people (and sometimes myself) don’t always take into consideration is that I have more barriers and it takes me a lot more effort to achieve high grades due to my chronic fatigue. I can obviously achieve just like anyone else and yet despite the playing field not being level I still put so much pressure on myself.
I don’t know why I do this because grades don’t define you and I’ve always said this but I still pile the pressure on myself. I just hope that when I finish studying this weight will be lifted. Yet, I also hope that now I have reflected and openly admitted this I will stop trying to be my own worst enemy.
Thank you for reading what has been a strange (sorry I’m still trying to figure out exactly why I do put pressure on, as you can tell from this scattered reflection) and personal blog
I would love to know if anyone else experiences this if so what strategies do you use to help you get out of this mindset?
I promise the next blog will be more upbeat!!
I’d also like to point out that being an occupational therapist is about the person you are and is certainly not about your academic abilities. It’s about compassion and person-centred practice! This is a reflection focused on internalised ableism rather than my abilities within the profession (see previous post).