Why feeling the best is better than being the best (by Stephanie-Rose Kelly)

Stephanie-Rose is an honours year law student at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK.

I started the final year of my law degree in relatively high spirits. I had a good group of friends around me, I had managed to obtain the highest overall grade amongst my classmates the previous year and I had my mind-set on securing a post-graduate traineeship and hit the ground running as a solicitor.

But with unrealistically high expectations from peers, academics and law firms, and an overwhelmingly competitive atmosphere, law school can sometimes feel like everyone is out to get one over on you, and make sure they succeed at your expense. Combine this with underlying confidence and anxiety issues and you have a recipe for disaster.

Consequentially, I ended the very same year by taking a suspension from university (or, “running away”, as some liked to put it). I left only weeks before my final exams started, I had already submitted my Honours Dissertation, graduation was booked and paid for, classes had finished and my peers had a strange buzz about them – a cocktail of nerves, fear, anticipation and excitement. I, on the otherhand, hadn’t slept properly in months, I didn’t go a full day without at least one panic attack and I could barely bring myself to get out of bed. So I left. And, to this day, it was the best decision I have ever made.

Taking my suspension made me realise a lot of important things: that university is not the be-all-and-end-all, that friends aren’t friends if they are only out to benefit from your relationship, that coursework and deadlines aren’t more important than your health (mental or physical) and that, contrary to common opinion, sometimes taking that all-important step back is the best thing you can do.

My voluntary suspension lasted only to the end of the academic year, which allowed me almost six months “recovery time” (not my choice of words) before starting over. This allowed me to focus a lot more on mindfulness, allowing me to shift my focus and giving me the first opportunity in over ten years to shift priorities from academic achievement and being “the best” to feeling “the best” and looking after myself.

Now, I’m back.

I can’t lie and say the academic side of things is any easier, because it’s not. But I’ve learned the importance of looking after my physical and mental health as the number one priority. And I suppose that is the message I want to share here. It’s simple but it’s true and it’s effective: mindfulness is important, your mental state is important and your career or studies should never jeopardise this!

Look after yourself. You’ve got your whole life to chase that career, so take your time and stay happy!

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Article by: Jerome