Image: Brad.K / Flickr
Image: Brad.K / Flickr

Let the games begin: the competitive nature of Warwick

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The tense atmosphere of Term Three is making itself known. Stress is radiating from every study space, you’ve probably had at least one public meltdown, and Tabula countdowns are filling your inbox as a reminder of everything you’ve got to do.

But mingled in with this already toxic atmosphere is a sense of competitiveness that seems to be present throughout the year. I went to a secondary school that aspired to private school standards, so competition was rife throughout GCSE and A Levels. You couldn’t walk down the corridor without someone asking what mark you got in the latest exam and then having to watch as they mentally calculated whether they’d outdone you. I’d be lying if I said I never bought into this. I was quietly competitive and there’s no doubt that this helped me get into Warwick.

Too much of this atmosphere slowly chips away at your confidence

But competitiveness at Warwick functions on a whole new level. Whilst my secondary school experience prepared me for the pettiness of being asked “but what mark did you get exactly?” (yes, this still happens), I was by no means prepared for the insecurity I’ve felt over the past three years.

The creeping feeling of self-doubt made itself known gradually – from a course mate telling me I could do “much better next time” when I got a 2:1 in an essay, to hearing people brag at length about the work experience they’d scored at a top company. Too much of this atmosphere slowly chips away at your confidence.

It’s impossible to function in an environment that demands you to achieve good grades, a career, and an appropriately ‘Instagrammable’ social life and relationship…

This was only made worse when the competition became more than just about grades – the pressure to find a boyfriend, hold an exec position and secure a career became equally a source of competition. I’ve even had experiences where people would purposely not tell me about job opportunities so that they stood more of a chance. The atmosphere of pettiness and backstabbing was everywhere, and it felt impossible to escape it. Once completely secure and happy, I found myself going out when I didn’t want to, and pursuing relationships I knew I didn’t want, to avoid being labelled the ‘inferior’ friend.

The competitive atmosphere at Warwick is toxic and damaging. It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: it’s impossible to function in an environment that demands you to achieve good grades, a career, and an appropriately ‘Instagrammable’ social life and relationship. Happiness doesn’t come from a list of social symbols. It’s important to keep in mind that somebody else’s goals might not be yours, and vice versa.

Hundreds of likes on social media don’t equate to happiness

The only noticeable change in my mood came when I stopped trying to compete – as soon as I stopped comparing myself to those around me, and ignored people who suggested I was in any way inferior, the security I’d felt prior to uni returned. You can’t expect to gain confidence when you’re thinking about the internships your friends are doing, or the boyfriend you do not have. Obsessing over what you don’t have will get you nowhere, just as relationships, careers, or hundreds of likes on social media don’t equate to happiness. As clichéd as it sounds, it’s time we started focusing on ourselves rather than those around us.

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