Complaining about stress shouldn’t be a competition

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

It’s not a secret. School is hard.

Oftentimes when students encounter each other, they break the ice with complaints and frustrations like “Ugh, I am so tired” or “I’m literally dying. I have so much to get done this week.” This negative communication has snaked its way into everyday student-to-student communication.

Most students can relate to the experience of having four tests, a paper and a group project due in the span of a single school week, and that is challenging. There is nothing wrong with verbalizing one’s frustration with the common challenges of collegiate life and seeking the support of friends. However, such practices can become problematic when they extend beyond simple expressions of aggravation or difficulty and become competitive statements of personal comparison with the experiences of one’s peers.

The experiences each student has, particularly across majors, are nearly incomparable. Each student faces a unique combination of academic and emotional challenges, along with a plethora of other potential obstacles, like jobs and family life, that define their collegiate experience. When the discussion becomes competitive in nature, no participating party benefits.

If students are facing a particularly difficult week and spew that information onto all of their friends, what value do they derive from that interaction? Beyond the shallow and short-lived satisfaction of knowing that they might have a heavier workload than their peers for that week, they are in no way benefited by the verbal competition.

If a student is facing a more relaxed week and can’t compete with his peers in regards to the difficulty of his academic load, he is in no way benefited. Rather, he is left thinking that perhaps his major is too easy or he is not a hard enough worker.

This culture of complaining about workloads promotes negative sentiments between students and does not contribute any worth or value to interstudent communication. Instead, it wastes time that could be spent having positive interactions with others and communicating in a way that would contribute to the mental or emotional well-being of others.

In other countries, such communication is quite taboo and looked down upon. While preparing for study abroad programs, American students are often told to avoid such communication, as it would be quite polarizing or distancing to people of other countries.

Supporting one another in the face of academic difficulties is a crucial element of college friend groups. The reality is that some weeks will be much harder than others, and to have the support of friends during those more difficult times is invaluable. However, students should be careful to not to compare their own experiences with those of their peers. They should also refrain from adopting a competitive spirit when others share their challenges with them.

Instead, students ought to empathize with their peers and support them through their difficulties. If sharing personal challenges might be a helpful tool in demonstrating camaraderie with a friend, some instances might call for such communication. In most cases, it’s best to recognize how incomparable the experiences of individual students are and to support each other when possible. Students should work to establish positive communication as the norm, rather than focusing on the negative elements of one’s week.