Mains Exam, Self Esteem and Mental Health - ForumIAS

Mains Exam, Self Esteem and Mental Health

I want to share my experience with writing and failing mains 4 times, hoping that it would resonate with some people out there and we can have a conversation about it. 

After 2020 results, I sat down to figure out what was it that I was doing wrong. I could figure out several issues related to note making, studying habits and answer writing. But more that everything, I think it is my self esteem issues that has created extra hurdles for me. I came to the conclusion that until I work on my self esteem, my effort in other areas is not likely to yield proportionate results. Let me elaborate. 

Mains exam has certain distinctive features which can generate anxiety and fear. In prelims, you are presented with 4 options. The answer is there in front of you. You just have to identify it and just put a tick mark on it. There is nothing that you are creating in the process. There is very less of "you" in the answer. Even the OMR sheet is checked by computers. There is no one who is going to look at your answers and say "you did not know even this!". Mains is the complete opposite. You have a few blank pages in front of you and whatever you write is just "you". In a way, writing a mains answer is exposing yourself, being vulnerable in front of the stranger who is going to read your answer and judge you for it. It can make you feel little, inadequate. As a result, it can generate a lot of anxiety in someone with self esteem issues like me. There have also been several scientific studies which have linked self esteem, exam anxiety and performance. 

Even in toppers, we can see two types of people. One is the Anudeep Durishetty kind. You can see vulnerability in his speech, in his writing. In his blog also he has mentioned how he struggled with self esteem after failing repeatedly in mains. Then there is other kind of people who are (relatively) self assured. For them, preparation is a relatively straightforward affair.

Therefore I think that the way that one approaches preparation will have to depend on one's self esteem level. I think for people struggling with self esteem issues (myself included), preparation will have to involve more than just reading books, making notes and writing tests. These are important, I don't deny that. Doing these sincerely is also likely to help one's self esteem. But at the same time, we also have to focus on our mental health. Those who struggle with self esteem, have a little voice inside themselves, which criticizes everything they do, second guesses their every step. It keeps saying to them that they are not good enough. This raises exam anxiety and lowers performance, leading to a self fulfilling prophecy. To do one's best in such as situation, this voice has to be controlled and if possible eliminated. At least that is what I think. I would love to hear other's opinion on this.
Neyawn,sonderand19 otherslike this
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@Siddhurules To add to what@sbhati513590  said above, most often we don't understand this as even a problem. In my case, keeping the self-esteem high along with repeated failures is the most difficult task. Leave UPSC preparation,  even if i am discussing something in my family or having casual talks with my friends, I am speaking  in a tone that has lost conviction. There is a constant judgemental filter inside my head that screens every thing i say. Even i cannot talk eye-to-eye with my friends/parents. After this thread surfaced, I felt kind of relieved, because everyone understands failure/broken confidence, but no one speaks of the issue of erosion of one's self worth. 


sbhati,
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@nayan594 bro.....do u do physical exercise nd meditation?


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@Siddhurules physical exercise, yes. Meditation, no. I will try to imbibe your suggestions asap. 


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@Siddhurules To add to what@sbhati513590  said above, most often we don't understand this as even a problem. In my case, keeping the self-esteem high along with repeated failures is the most difficult task. Leave UPSC preparation,  even if i am discussing something in my family or having casual talks with my friends, I am speaking  in a tone that has lost conviction. There is a constant judgemental filter inside my head that screens every thing i say. Even i cannot talk eye-to-eye with my friends/parents. After this thread surfaced, I felt kind of relieved, because everyone understands failure/broken confidence, but no one speaks of the issue of erosion of one's self worth. 


It happens. I feel low when friends discuss their salary, how they enjoyed their vacation in Delhi etc. I start to judge myself for leaving my job and coming into preparation which has left us in mid of nowhere. But perhaps, as said in aspirant web series, it's not because of our determination or will to serve people but because of our EGO. Our ego makes us think that we aren't successful and so, we don't have any self-esteem within us. But its not like that. Our self-esteem will remain high if we keep thinking that we are worthy enough. If not a worthy aspirant(Not true entirely but let's assume for now), I am a worthy human, a worthy son, a worthy brother, a worthy family person. This struggle, this pain of failure had made me tough to stand all the adversaries coming in the future before us after being a civil servant(And yes, I will become a Civil Servant!). This 13 months of struggle after leaving my job had made me more aware and HUMANE than those 2 years of being in a Corporate job and I am happy with my decision. Maybe this self-satisfaction even being nothing is uplifting my self-esteem nowadays. 

Titanium,nayan594
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@Brave For me it is Radiohead. That should not come as a surprise if you have listened to “Creep”. 😅


Wait, I just remembered thissong. I did not know it was a cover though.

By the way, I did pick up the book.(Studying endlessly and then sitting in exam with low self esteem/confidence will do me no good). I was so surprised to find that it also talks about loving yourself.(Similar to thissong).

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@Brave the links are not working. And the thing you said about studying and then having low confidence, I couldn’t agree more.
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Creep cover by exo - 

'Answer : Love Myself' (Color Coded Lyrics) by BTS- 



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