This blog has been reviewed by Elizabeth Razzouk and Claire Gaudreau, edited by Rémi Thériault
Béa, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m in my 3rd year of undergrad at McGill University with a major concentration in psychology and minor concentrations in sociology and behavioural science. I grew up in Arlington, MA, US and took a psychology course in high school, which sparked my interest in studying psychology further. I initially planned to study International Development in university, but when I started U1 (as a second year), I realized that I wanted more than a minor in psychology.
I’ve been a babysitter/nanny for over 5 years and I’d love to work with children in the future in a research capacity or through social work; this is why I’m so interested in positive psychology. Children are particularly vulnerable in the world and building a space that encourages them to take care of themselves and others is important to me. I think understanding how to improve people’s well-being is an incredibly valuable tool and actually using that tool will make the world a better place. I’ve experienced my own struggles in life, so learning strategies to work through hardships is crucial.
When I’m not busy with school, I love to write, paint, and spend time with my favourite people! I’m a pretty quiet person and I don’t enjoy being the center of attention, but I love making people laugh and be cheerful. I love animals (especially cats) and nature (I want to live in the mountains!). I’m hoping to work in a psychology lab this year and I’m very excited to join the Student Ambassador Program of the CPPA!
What do you think made you successful as a student?
I honestly couldn’t tell you what made me successful as a student. It took me a long time to learn how to study, and even now I don’t have a specific tried-and-true method. I think the thing that helps me the most is making lists. If I don’t make a list of everything I need to do by a certain date, something will slip through the cracks. I’ve recently started gathering my syllabi for all my classes in the upcoming semester and writing down what I need to do each week of the semester in an agenda book. This strategy is super helpful for me because I can have all my projects, readings, and exams laid out in front of me in one place and that helps me make a list of priorities.
In terms of character traits, I think what helped me the most is my ability to make anything interesting — studying is much easier when you’re fascinated by the material! I definitely have had to trick myself into being interested in some subjects; in high school, I had to think of math as a tough puzzle that I needed to solve for a prize (i.e., a good grade). Studying for my sociology and psychology courses is much easier than for other classes because I love the material so much. It can take a great deal of trial-and-error to figure out what is most interesting to you, but spending time to get to know yourself ultimately pays off.
If the content gets dry, my favourite thing to do is place myself into the concepts: as a long-ish example, one of the concepts I learned about in a Personality and Social Psychology class was “the self in the social context.” We looked specifically at different ways people judge themselves and how these different types of comparisons (social: how we perform in relation to others; temporal: how we perform in relation to the self at a past point in time) make us feel. Social comparisons are more evaluative (conducive to self-criticisms) and temporal comparisons are enhancing (i.e., they make you feel good about yourself). I thought about these comparison theories by considering my academic performance in high school. A social comparison would be to say that my GPA was slightly higher than my peers’ average GPA, but that doesn’t feel as good as saying “I’m better at studying now than I was in high school,” which is a temporal comparison. Being able to put myself into the material makes me feel even more passionate about it because abstract concepts become tangible; it also helps me remember the concepts better!
It can take a great deal of trial-and-error to figure out what is most interesting to you, but spending time to get to know yourself ultimately pays off.
What strength, skill, strategy, mindset, or habit allowed you to get where you are today?
A quote from Moosa Rahat has stuck with me for a while: “Just remember that even your worst days only have 24 hours.” This mindset is particularly helpful on days I’m most stressed. If I’m panicking about an exam, I start a countdown to when it’ll be over and use those hours to feel as prepared as I can while reminding myself that the stress won’t last forever. If I have a day where it feels like nothing is working in my favour, I think of that quote and I feel more at ease.
Another mindset that has been valuable for me is telling myself to do what I need to do. I tell my friends the same when they’re having a hard day, I say it to the children I babysit when they’re upset, and I think it to myself. Acknowledging that you’re allowed to take care of yourself without putting pressure on one particular way to do so is a big relief. I’ve been told to meditate pretty much my whole life, but I know that won’t work for me if I’m worried about a class because I’ll be thinking about how stressed I am and what I feel pressured to do instead. Instead, I remind myself to do what I need to do to feel better (take coffee and snack break, for example) and then get back to work when I have a clear head.
Acknowledging that you’re allowed to take care of yourself without putting pressure on one particular way to do so is a big relief.
How would you invite other students to cultivate those qualities?
I would say that cultivating these qualities comes with self-awareness and listening to your body and mind. You can’t have one without the other! If you’re in-tune with yourself, you’ll know what feels best for you and will hopefully avoid feeling pressured to think or act in a certain way. Everyone learns differently and trusting that you know yourself is an important part of making your way through life.
… Trusting that you know yourself is an important part of making your way through life.
Any last words you’d like to share with fellow students?
Remember to take care of yourself and others. Your best work will come when you learn to prioritize yourself as a human above your role as a student. I’m excited to be part of the Student Ambassador Program of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association, and I hope you join as well! Feel free to reach out to me with any questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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