By Arissa Binte Kamaruzaman (24A01A) and Kimberly Chong Rui En (24S06Q, Peer Helper)
Your resident Aunties and Uncles are back with our Ask Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset column, this time as a collaboration between Raffles Press and Peer Helpers’ Programme (PHP)! Ever wanted to rant about that someone you just can’t stand? Overwhelmed with too many feelings? Submit your confessions to https://tinyurl.com/RIAAUU and we’ll give them our best shot. This column will be published at the end of every month.
How do we cope with the times we just want to give it all up and “quit”? What can we do?Surrendering Sally
Dear Surrendering Sally,
At certain junctures in our lives, the weight of commitments, relationships, and academics on our shoulders leave us on shaky footing. A singular, dreadful question uproots our facade of stability: should we give up?
Working hard – but for what reward?
In that moment, giving up seems the most preferred, and convenient route. We may have earlier on convinced ourselves that to work harder is to reap more success. Yet, when our expectations are upturned, it leaves us unsure of whether working hard is worth it at all.
Hustle culture makes us victim to this mindset, influencing us to believe that working beyond our limits, will ultimately grant us fulfilment. But when that fulfilment fails to arise, even after intense, strenuous hours of effort, it makes us question whether the productivity and ambition that we pride ourselves on are worth it in the first place. We convince ourselves to be all-or-nothing– trying our best, or not trying at all.
What we need to recognise is that viewing our efforts in such binary terms can be damaging to our sense of self-worth. We find ourselves stuck in a toxic cycle where we either immerse ourselves in the ‘grindset’ and teeter on the brink of burnout or demean ourselves for even trying. Ambition in itself is not an unhealthy pursuit, but pushing one’s self beyond one’s limits is.
Ask yourself what you are genuinely passionate in
It takes time for us to reconcile with the fact that there are things that are still worth fighting for — that bring us joy, love and passion — even when we’ve lost our sights on these said things in our insatiable pursuit for success. To do so, we first have to take a step back and ask ourselves what exactly brings meaning to our lives?
Having many commitments which do not hold as dear to our heart is more draining physically and emotionally than having a few that we feel strongly passionate about. When driven by expectations of curating a ‘perfect’ portfolio, and taking on more commitments than we can count on our fingers, it leaves us feeling more exhausted and unfulfilled than accomplished.
Commit to what you have a pure and genuine interest for, rather than squander your time merely for the sake of it. This doesn’t mean escaping from the commitments you take on, but recalibrating your balance. In the first place, do you have the capacity to manage all of this on one plate? Will letting go of some commitments allow you to better manage your mental health?
Quality over quantity comes into play here, where we learn to let go and concentrate on things that mean more to us. It serves as a driving force to keep us constantly engaged in what we’re doing.
Fall in love again with what you do
However, it is true that sometimes, purpose is discovered in the process of completing a task, rather than from the outset.
Don’t let your failures, or shortcomings, prevent you from persevering, and falling in love again with the subjects that you’re currently studying; or a commitment that you signed up for months ago. We are meant to fight for what we love; not to be defeated by it. Sitting down with yourself and writing down three reasons on paper why you chose to study that subject and how to improve can help you move on.
Surround yourself with what uplifts you, not what puts you down
Notice what triggers your negative thoughts: is it a friend teasing that the question you’re stuck on is easy; is it someone posting all the homework they’ve completed on their Instagram story? If these negative thoughts persist, distance yourself from the situation by immersing yourself in an environment that truly uplifts you. Find people that empower you to be better, who celebrate even your smallest of achievements.
And learn from them too – just as how your friends treat you kindly, you too can be kind to yourself. You are more than your shiniest achievements; or your worst disappointments. You are who you are, and if it means struggling from time to time, then so be it. You deserve your own kindness, because the kindness that gives you peace on a morning where your first thought is that you’re awfully grateful to be alive, will teach you to be equally grateful for the struggles you face in your worst days.
Learn to rest, not to quit
One of the simplest things we can do, yet is still the hardest to remember is: breathe. When caught in the fast-paced hustle, of rushing back home after a long day in school and still struggling to catch up with lectures late into the night, we forget to immerse ourselves in the present, and all its transient beauty.
Take time off weekly to partake in worthwhile activities that you enjoy, but may have been neglecting – be it a favourite sport of yours, or reading a book on your to-be-read list. Best of all, spend time in introspection by writing your thoughts down in a journal. In Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World Where Are You?, the protagonist writes one thing in her personal journal that mesmerises her each day – sometimes, merely scribbling a single word like “daylight”. Doing something as simple yet profound as this allows us to distil the raw beauty of everyday life into words that we can come back to in moments when we feel like giving up. It reminds us then that the world, our beautiful world, waits for us, even when everything is too much and too fast all at once.
Finding your community of support
Having a support system can do wonders in the moments when we feel like quitting. When everything is overwhelming, we may drown ourselves in our defeatist thoughts, and doubt ourselves as being too soft, or too sensitive. We compare ourselves to others, who succeed effortlessly, and chide ourselves that perhaps we will never live up to those same standards: “I’m not burnt out, I’m just not trying hard enough.” We spiral in our negative thoughts, coming to the cynical conclusion: “What’s the point of trying anyway”?
In doing so, we dismiss our struggles, in a time when we most need someone to validate them. When all we want to hear is: “I appreciate how hard you’ve worked”. In school, you’ll come across all kinds of good and supportive people that will journey the rest of your life with you. Trust in them to weather your weakest moments with you, and to offer their hand in helping you rise to your feet again. Besides, isn’t it always worth trying again, when there is someone you care about traversing the winding track of fortitude, right by your side?
Herein lies the best of advice: persist, even amidst the toughest periods in life, but not with the hope of a reward at the end of it all. What is truly rewarding is interspersed between these moments, in the now, in the fleetingness. Imagine living life in the moment, taking everything one step at a time; and breathing in the spectacle of the ordinary: the immense joy of understanding a concept for the first time, answering a teacher’s question correctly in class; and enjoying the company of lifelong friends who cheer you along.
Perhaps, then, the true reward is love – loving what you do and doing what you love, so much so that you can tell yourself that you want to persist, persist, and persist.
Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset
If you need anyone to talk to about any issues you might be facing, do drop by My Rest Space near Marymount gate and talk to one of our peer helpers! We’re open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 3 – 5 p.m, and Wednesday 11.00 a.m. – 1.00 p.m. If you would like to meet a peer helper on a regular basis, do email us a request at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our request form at our website https://rafflesinstitution5.wixsite.com/rafflespeerhelpers
Do check Mental Health Awareness Week at the Canteen Walkway from 27th July to 4th August 2023! For more details: go to Instagram @rafflespeerhelpers or our website above.