Studies

Struggling in university, my dream to become a psychologist was fading away

Quinn Lee // October 14, 2020, 6:01 pm

WHEN MY DREAM OF BEING A PSYCHOLOGIST FELL APART

I am not the brightest student. Trust me, I really do study. But more often than not, my results don’t translate.

During exam season, I make sure that I spend as much time as possible burying my head in the books. As I don’t tend to do too well in assignments, the pressure to make up for the lost marks through the finals is immense.

I clearly remember my finals back in Y1S2: I was right at the bottom of the class for a module, and my other modules weren’t doing well either. And since they were core modules for psychology, taking an S/U wasn’t a choice.

It did not help that I was among a group of friends in my course who were constantly scoring As. Their discussions during group study sessions only made me feel inferior!

I felt the need to study even more because of that, and I was afraid of losing my friends.

Especially when I saw that they would discuss questions amongst themselves, because they knew I wouldn’t know the answers anyway.

No one understood how much effort I was already putting in. No one understood how stupid I felt. No one really knew what I was going through.

The thing was, while I managed to secure a CAP of 4.0 in Y1S1 after SU, I knew I was not going to be able maintain that in my current situation.

That meant there was a chance I would lose out on attaining my dream career as a clinical psychologist as only those with top grades can pursue it.

All these feelings and insecurities started to bottle up in me, because I couldn’t just tell my friends that they made me feel stupid. Really, it was my own expectations of myself that set me up for all this stress.

And as a psychology student, I knew I needed a break because I was tired and stressed. But after the break, I would feel guilty for taking it. As such, I was always flustered and unable to focus when I was studying.

It was a vicious cycle: I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep at night because I didn’t accomplish much during the day; I wouldn’t be rested the next morning and everything would snowball.

Believing I was a good-for-nothing, I had given up on my future

I was worn out. And the truth is that I was also starting to feel lonely, because I felt no one understood me.

No one understood how much effort I was already putting in. No one understood how stupid I felt. No one really knew what I was going through.

I started to isolate myself. I came up with the excuse that I wanted to focus, and that I could only do so when I am alone.

But the truth was that I didn’t want them to see how helpless I was, and I didn’t want to feel stupid in front of them.

It was then I realised that I wasn’t “lonely”. I was only alone because I had pulled myself out of my community.

I wanted a way out – out of this troubled mindset and cycle that was wearing me out. But there wasn’t anything I felt that was effective enough to bring me out.

HARD QUESTIONS

I was already a Christian and I knew that God had brought me through all the previous seasons in life like my A Levels and National Service. But university just seemed to be a different ball game.

I knew it was God who brought me into university by grace because I hadn’t done well for A Levels; my grades were A-C-E. Literally an “ace”. 

So I struggled hard to make sense of why God brought me so far only for me to do poorly and feel insecure about my grades. 

I could not understand why He couldn’t just reward me for being a hardworking student and grant me my dream career.

When my Army dream fell apart

They were so many questions in my head about God’s goodness in my life, that all I could do was to pray and go back to the Bible.

While doing so, I stumbled onto these two verses that spoke so much to me at that point in time.

The first was John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

When I read that, I realised that I had been finding peace in people. I had “peace” when those around me didn’t make me feel inferior.

I came to see that if I really trust God, I can find peace, security and assurance in Him.

And I was finding peace and security in grades; whenever I did well in my results I wouldn’t be panicking. I was finding peace and assurance in my circumstances, believing that I just needed more time to study and would do better.

But the peace that the Bible promises is not in things like these, but God. So I came to see that if I really trust God, I can find peace, security and assurance in Him.

And such a peace, security and assurance are not easily shaken by anything, because I know that He is the one holds my future.

The other verse was Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I began to believe that what I was facing was for a good purpose; I am in good hands and my future is steady as long as I choose to look to Him.

The toughest pill to swallow at that point was the word “prosper”. It just wasn’t the same kind of “prosper” in my head.

I recognised that prosperity might not necessarily mean good grades. God revealed to me that good grades were what I clutched onto as my security, but that was not what He has planned for me.

So perhaps my situation did prosper me: I discovered where my worth was really found in, not in my grades but God.

Grades aside, He loves me, shows me grace and accepts me for who I am. I am securely found in God as His beloved child.

When I understood this, I found true peace.

Grades don’t define your future

Of course, that doesn’t mean that life became smooth sailing.

I still had to ask for God’s strength and peace to last me through each day and to help me fight all the insecurities in my head. I had to constantly meditate on God’s truth to remind myself of the peace I have in Him.

It is only when I remind myself of the truth – that my worth is not found in accolades but Him – that I was able to fend off the insecurities in my head. Only then did I find peace.

I am definitely still a work in progress.

Some of you might be wondering how that Y1S2 semester ended.

Eventually, I didn’t do well for the module I was struggling with and my final CAP that semester dropped to a lower class. I was undoubtedly affected by this result.

But this time, it was different from before. Even though I faced discouragement, I could choose where to place my security in.

I’ll definitely continue to do my best to study hard, but I have also gradually moved towards placing more of my security in God, knowing that as I put my trust in Him, He will lead me towards His good plan for my life.

So I just want to encourage those of us who may be facing similar insecurities with your grades as I did: place your trust and hope in God.

Only in God can we find that true peace, security and assurance that the world cannot give.

THINK + TALK

  1. What was the biggest failure you’ve ever experienced in life?
  2. What did you learn from it?
  3. How did God speak to you through that failure? 
  4. Know someone who’s struggling in life right now? Be a beacon of encouragement for them this week.