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Three ways to derail yourself and how to avoid it

By in Opinions
Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor

There are a few common mental traps that we seem to fall into around the mid-semester point. Our motivation wanes as the relentless workload starts to chip away at our positivity. While it might be impossible to avoid these traps entirely, one can manage to escape without too much damage.


While we can’t be confident all the time, especially when we are attempting new things, crippling self-doubt can derail our success in no time. So how can we escape the cycle of doubting ourselves?

Remind yourself of your successes. You have tried new things before and have succeeded countless times so try to focus on your wins. Don’t let the thoughts of every time you tripped over your feet creep in and try to tell you differently.

Self-doubt might be the most insidious trap because it can lead to intrusive thoughts that affect our performance. Be confident and recognize that we need to fail in order to learn and grow. Don’t be afraid of learning new material, taking a difficult class or trying a new activity. We need a challenge in order to succeed.


The cousin of self doubt — a perfectionist ideal has the ability to derail us just as fast. The need to always be perfect differs in a key way from self-doubt — you know you can do the task but you don’t know if it will be flawless.

Why is that an issue? Well if you have perfectionist tendencies, then you need it to be perfect or it doesn’t count. It’s just not good enough. Perfectionism can lead to you over studying, over thinking and severe anxiety. Tackling perfectionism is difficult because it’s an insidious trap that slowly devours us. 

Check in with yourself and find the driving force. Is it because you are entering into a competitive program and need to secure funding for grad school, or is it because you have a self-driven contest to be the best?

Whatever the reason is, try to get around the
“all-or-nothing” end game and focus on benchmarks that you need to hit and why these goals are important. Perspective is everything. Chances are, if you ease up on yourself, your performance isn’t likely to plummet. In fact, giving yourself a chance to breathe might even improve it.


We’re all guilty of procrastinating once in a while, but this third trap can be our biggest obstacle for a successful year. Taking a mental health day to watch Netflix isn’t a bad thing — a break is sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves as being “on” all the time can lead very quickly to burn out. Taking care of ourselves is not procrastination, even if it means that we are putting work on the back burner for a day.

Procrastination is the intentional avoidance of a task and is usually wrapped up in anxiety, self-doubt and habit. We put off that painful task — whether it’s our statistics labs or that essay we really need to get started on — because we either feel anxious about the task or because we have zero interest in it and just can’t bring ourselves to look at it.

It might take time to get over your procrastination habit or quell your anxiety, but by restructuring how you tackle your study time and homework habits, you can eventually claw your way out of the trap.

Get organized, set a timeline and incentivize yourself. When you find what is able to motivate you, it will be easier to get out of the procrastination habit. If anxiety is holding you back, your first step might be to pin-point exactly what is causing your stress. 

In the end, the better you know yourself, the easier it will be to spot these traps and avoid self-sabotage.

Erin Matthews/ Opinions Editor

Graphic: Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor

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