Mains Exam, Self Esteem and Mental Health - ForumIAS

Mains Exam, Self Esteem and Mental Health

@Neyawn would love to hear your opinion on this.



Though I have never given mains butI totally understand you. 

But with me the problem is in prelims too. In 2020 pre (in exam hall) , I said to myself  "Idiot, you did not even study this? You did not even know this question? huh? Look at others, how difficult it must have been for them to study- some affected by covid, some in jobs and some managing household work, etc"

Later, I realized I made silly mistake like-Solving question 41 but marking Q40 OMR instead of 41, the more nervous I got , the more silly mistakes I did( by the way, I did make these mistakes in mocks before and minimised it but in pre again did) and more I forgot what I studied. And while marking 50:50 question--my brains works like "if I mark option b "what is 'a' option is correct and not 'b'" and vice versa"

I know I lacked preparation in 1st attempt but in second attempt, I was more disappointed (with myself).

I too think anxiety and exam fear overpowers my brain.

But doing hobbies tends to reduce a little anxiety.

That is very relatable. In 2019 mains, in a question about social reformers, I forgot Raja Ram Mohan Roy's name. In question on Iran nuclear deal, i forgot full form of JCPOA. These things are not related to preparation alone. This is what exam anxiety does. And I think this anxiety stems from low self esteem. Level of preparation also plays a role, definitely. But anxiety makes you perform less than your potential. Then bad results reinforce negative self image and the cycle continues.  

@balwintejas I think that even being conscious of it should help. If you know that you have these unhelpful patterns of thinking, you can recognise them and say to yourself "I am just unnecessarily criticising myself as I always do. I have prepared well and it is going to be okay." That can help in reducing anxiety. That is why I think it is something that needs to be recognised, addressed rather being brushed under the carpet. 



@balwintejas Glad someone else feel like this too.

But, why should our self-esteem depend on exam though. I feel like self esteem should be like- if I am performing well, my self esteem should say "good, you performed well but don't get it to your head and work hard" and if performing bad then inner voice should say "ok , analyze your mistakes, keep it in mind and move on, you can do it , don't stress out too much".

But what actually happens is that the inner voice in my head criticizes every action " you performed well , huh, mock must be too easy" and if perform bad, then- "idiot, you are hopeless".

Somebody suggested me to do hobbies. Mine is drawing, painting, so when I draw a little, that self criticizing voice diminishes and I feel better and less anxious. In last few days , I could not do hobby, so that voice got a lot bigger. Now, again trying to control that.

@balwintejas I feel it is about balance-knowledge and confidence. Nothing more and nothing less of both.
All the best to you.

@Neyawn - I don't know why, I think you can almost read people's mind. If possible, please tell what do you think of what we wrote in above comments.

That is how it should be. Self esteem should not depend on exam. Self esteem should not depend on hobbies also. We should be okay with ourself, not doing anything, just existing. But that is exactly what low self esteem is. Feeling inadequate, not inadequate with something in particular, inadequate even just existing. 


Thanks@sbhati513590 for bringing this up. I am particularly undergoing this since the 2019 mains results came out in October, 2020. I had observed the gradual decline of my self-confidence few weeks after I saw marks. Before that, I was gearing up for mains, 2020. I started to get a feeling from inside "what better can you do in mains 2020 within this short time?". Then I thought it to be a momentary low phase which will pass. I even called up  coaching mentors to help me. But somehow I could do anything to save my boat. I could feel my esteem taking hit. In fact, 30-40 days before mains, I was scared to touch the books. I was scared to stay inside my room. I was scared to touch my optional, which I loved deeply. And I  was judging myself vigorously. This episode hit my esteem so much so that I couldn't ask for help from parents/friends. Giving Mains 2020 felt like inert phase to me. No feelings, no confidence, no positivity.  I was writing the exam only to fail. I couldn't yet figure out how to remedy this.

@nayan594 You are welcome. I think many of us give up weeks before mains. We don't even give ourselves a fair chance. We keep going through the motions of reading, revising, writing answers but deep down we say to ourselves "what is the point? I am not going to clear it." This mindset then reflects in our performance. This is why I am trying to be conscious of the unhelpful patterns of thought that keep going through my mind. 

I am also reading this book. I am finding it quite good. Others may also check it out. I think it can be helpful in resolving some of the issues we are discussing here.



Thanks for suggesting the book. I read the sample pages and can mostly relate to what it talks about low self-esteem. Especially, about self destructiveness we "know" we are inadequate/can't do anything and that "happiness anxiety". Sometimes, understanding the feelings we go through gives more clarity on how we behave. Please share anything else too if you found it to be helpful. 

I have found it to be the most helpful thing. Recognising that others have also the felt the way that I feel and there are words/concepts already existing which describe these feelings (concept of self esteem for example). It also enables you to talk about these things with others. 

Do let me know if you pick up the book. We can probably discuss things while we go through it. 

We keep reading about emotional intelligence in ethics. And that recognising your emotions is one part of it. I think it is only now that I have started to understand what it really means. 
@Brave For me it is Radiohead. That should not come as a surprise if you have listened to “Creep”. 😅

@SiddhurulesThanks for your suggestions. But my intention behind starting this thread was to know people's opinion about what role self esteem plays in preparation, based on their personal experiences. I was not looking for advice per say as to what I should do.

@Siddhurules Probably. But I think you’ll also find many who do question their self worth, at least sometimes. Many of us are either unconscious of it and attribute their problems to their lack of preparation/ poor luck or are conscious of it but don’t want to talk about it. 
@Brave the links are not working. And the thing you said about studying and then having low confidence, I couldn’t agree more.
Write your comment…