Now, we all know that governments around the world are making their education systems tougher and more and more exam-based. One of the obvious impacts of this which is often picked up by the media is the rise in anxiety and stress due to the increasing pressure young people are under from an increasingly young age. Today, whilst sat in my room surrounded by revision timetables, textbooks and notes which I am still currently trying to sort out and file away ready for next year’s exams, I became aware of another impact this may have on youngsters like me that people don’t often think about.
I’ll refer to it as “workaholism”, because I can’t think of an easier way to describe it and since it’s something that a lot of people tend to overlook or pass off as being “lucky” because workaholics are studious and have the drive to work hard.
I’ve always been a hard worker, done all my homework and schoolwork to the best of my ability, because my parents brought me up to be polite and follow the rules and at school the rules were to do the work we were set, so I did. When it came to year 6 SATs, I worked hard like everyone else and got average grades which I was happy with. Thinking back it was only really when I started secondary school that I started to stand out – and be bullied for – working hard. For example, I’d put tonnes of effort into homework projects and my teachers would sometimes make an example of me or display my work in the classroom because they were so pleased with it, or later on nearing GCSEs, we would have French vocab tests every lesson and no one would bother to revise so no one would score above 50%, but then I’d be getting nearly all the questions right because I spent ages learning the vocab for the test. In the end, I pretended I didn’t know the answers because I was so embarrassed to stick out from the class and be picked on because I actually did the work that was expected of me.
Revising for GCSEs wasn’t a problem for me. I meanNow, we all know that governments around the world are making their education systems tougher and more and more exam-based. One of the obvious impacts of this which is often picked up by the media is the rise in anxiety and stress due to the increasing pressure young people are under from an increasingly young age. Today, whilst sat in my room surrounded by revision timetables, textbooks and notes which I am still currently trying to sort out and file away ready for next year’s exams, I became aware of another impact this may have on youngsters like me that people don’t often think about.
What’s often referred to in a trivial sense as being a “workaholic” – someone who is very studious and works hard – is usually regarded as being a positive asset and something that people desire to be, for example “oh I wish I could be like you and work hard all the time”. However, for some people like me it can become a real problem.
I only realised today that I am possibly a workaholic, whilst on my bedroom floor trying to sort out my revision timetable for next year and rewriting some of this year’s revision notes – all of which I do not need to be doing until at least 6 months time and certainly not during my summer holidays – but looking back I think the signs have been there all along. During my year6 SATs I worked hard like everyone else and got average grades which I was pleased with,but once I got to secondary school I started to notice myself standing out and being bullied for apparently exceeding the average working standard of my fellow students, even though in reality what I was doing was the work set for me to the best of my ability as that’s how my parents had brought me up. Nearing GCSEs, I began to be embarrassed about getting high results in tests and being singled out because of it, so much so that in end of unit science tests or French vocab tests, I purposely wrote wrong answers because even though I’d done the revision and knew the answers, I desperately wanted to fit in and be like everyone else. In my real GCSE exams, I worked extremely hard but it wasn’t difficult to motivate myself. I mean, obviously I procrastinated occasionally like everyone but knew that I wanted to get good grades on these exams and I knew what I had to do to get them, so I did it. The trap with being a workaholic though is that no matter how much you work, you always need to do more, achieve more. I remember when I got my GCSE results and found out I was top in my school, I didn’t really feel anything. People around me were crying with happiness, I’m not sure if I was just too shocked to react or whether my brain had alreadyoved on to thinking about the next challenge – A Levels. I’d done GCSEs, they were hard but I knew I had to work harder for A Levels and i couldn’t help but allow myself to feel that GCSEs were a bit insignificant compared to what I would have to face next.
I think at college, my relationship with work has become worse. Throughout the past acedemics year, I’ve had an obsession with rewriting my notes on to index cards after every single lesson, revising “on the go” as it were. And when it came to the revision period itself, I found myself flitting from one method to the other because none of them were giving me the sense of fulfillment that I was learning and remembering enough fast enough, because having the mindset of a workaholic is all about being efficient – learning as much as you can in the shortest time possible, in order to go on to learn more. It’s anevening ending cycle in which I found myself never having time to relax.
There’s so much emphasis on independent work, and for someone who feels like they always need to do everything they can to meet and exceed their teacher’s expectations, everything we were pointed in the direction of resources or advised to look at things “if we had time”, any spare time I’d have for relaxing would turn into “I NEED TO READ THESE FIVE ARTICLES AND WRITE SUMMARIES” as if it was a life or death matter.
I often find myself telling people that I love studying and for me it’s not a chore, which is true because I know I will always do it because if I don’t my mind will go into an uncontrollable spiral of “I’m going to fail at everything”.
Even now that it’s the summer holidays, I just want to go back to college and carry on learning. I’ve set myself a huge to-do list of work for the summer and keep telling myself off for being “lazy” for having an unproductive day.
I think a lot of also stems from other people’s actions towards me – not that I can blame my problems on other people but some things people have said have certainly had an effect. For example “oh why are you worrying about exams, you always get As” or “you don’t understand, you’ve never failed anything” or “I wish I couldn’t have to revise and still get straight As like you do” etc. For me, no matter how much work I do it never feels like enough, I always get that “could have done more” feeling after exams and don’t understand how I get the grades I do because my mind doesn’t believe I’ve worked hard enough. I get so frustrated – why do I deserve these grades when my friends around me work just as hard, and if not harder? Some people say to me, “I wish I could get high grades for once” and honestly, I wish I could turn the tables and give them my grades because I’m fed up of never feeling satisfied with the amount of work I put in and not understanding what my friends are going through when they have to retake exams and face not making it to year 13.
This year has been an eye opening year in many ways, and my workaholic tendancies are just another thing I’ve discovered about myself during year 12. It just makes me wonder how many other young people out there can relate to my experiences, because the emphasis of exam-based education is affection everyone in different ways. I hope reading my story has been helpful in some way, and feel free to share yours below. Now I’ve identified these tendancies in myself, I can start to work my way around it and overcome this before it becomes an even bigger barrier to my mental health and education.
Thank you for reading 🙂