Ask any grad student and they’ll tell you that rigorous master’s programs force you into a lot of (often unwanted) self-reflection. You have to analyze how you manage heavy loads of work, assess areas and skills that you need to improve, and recognize both the healthy and unhealthy ways that you cope with stress. For anxious perfectionists like myself, this aspect of grad school has been grueling and like a never-ending series of adult growing pains.
This obviously is not the same for all grad programs out there and I can only speak from my current experience as a student in a master’s of science in social work (MSSW) program. But let me tell you: my first semester called for constant, constant, constant self-reflection and critique.
You’d think that being a part of a program that embraces introspection and reflecting upon one’s strengths and weaknesses would help me to boost up my self-care and focus on enhancing my strengths, right?
I’ll be totally, totally honest: My. Self. Care. Routine. SUCKED. I mean, it was basically non-existent.
On top of that, constant self-analyzation is super anxiety-inducing – even for the average person. For someone prone to being self-critical (i.e. ME), this aspect of grad school served as a huuuge foundation for developing a negative view of myself.
Now, for a little bit of clarification (and to stop myself from sounding over-dramatic), I have to admit that my first semester of grad school was better than I’m making it out to be. I got the best grades I’ve ever gotten, I established wonderful friendships with a lot of my classmates, and I loved what I was learning and the work that I was doing.
The problem here was that I was so wrapped up in school, analyzing my personal strengths and weaknesses as a professional, and learning the ‘ins and outs’ of social work practice that I wasn’t putting any focus on enhancing my own life and caring for myself. I became overly self-critical and (sometimes) debilitatingly anxious over my performance and others’ perceptions of me. This created a mindset where I was almost always searching for things that were broken and needed fixing in virtually every part of my life, ranging from how I was doing at my internship to how often I was (or wasn’t) working out and being active. I criticized everything.
I basically transformed into an emotional, anxious mess.
Despite the fact that I was doing the best I ever had in my short life, I often went to bed feeling empty. And I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what I was missing.
After the semester ended and I was FINALLY on break for a few weeks, I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, ‘I’ve been so negative, focusing so much on the outside aspects of my life – what will happen if I change my mindset and try to focus on the inside stuff instead?’
I realized that going to school, pursuing my career, and ‘having everything’ wasn’t going to make me happy – and negatively critiquing the less-than-perfect parts wasn’t going to either. Real, raw fulfillment and happiness won’t come from that – it comes from within!
So, what’s the point in me sharing all of this?
Well, with the start of a new year looming, I have decided to dedicate 2017 to take what I’m learning in grad school (and from my favorite self-care bloggers!) to myself and my personal life – and to document my journey along the way.
Self-care and self-development are in y’all, and I’m feelin’ trendy.
I’m still not entirely sure what this entails or what this year has in store for me BUT I do know that I’m absolutely stoked to get started. After having a few weeks away from school for the holidays, I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and 100% certain that I can achieve my goals and be happier and more fulfilled while doing it.
2017 is the year that I’m turning my focus onto myself. It’s the year that I’m taking control of the ‘inside stuff’ – my growth, wellbeing, and happiness. I’m back in the driver’s seat. I’m “staying in my Lain.”
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for stickin’ with me! Talk to you soon.