This page offers help and advice on working on the expectations you have of yourself and the demands you place on yourself. We recommend that you read the sections in order, but you are of course also welcome to choose the specific section that is most relevant for you. You can also find good advice from the psychologists at the Student Counselling Service, which can help you to focus on what is important in your student life.
At the Student Counsellors' Office, we often meet students who:
Of course, having ambitions and objectives in your student life often involves setting particular standards for yourself and your level of input. This applies to your academic and personal approach to your studies, but it also applies to your private life in relation to your leisure activities, student job, family, friends and much more. On this page, you will find exercises to help you learn more about your ambitions and standards.
It is good to have ambitions and expectations of yourself, and, if you perform well on your degree programme and thrive on meeting these expectations, then all is well. However, if you you find that your expectations are beginning to negatively affect your wellbeing and your ability to study, it is time to stop, reflect and do something about it.
Below, we have gathered some of the questions we would normally ask if you visited us at the Student Counsellors’ Office. Answer the questions and consider noting down your answers.
At the Student Counsellors' Office, we use the following questions to clarify the obstacles students face when their high expectations or their desire for perfection overshadow their wellbeing or a well-functioning student life. The questions give you the chance to reflect on your motivation and your options for changing your situation/perfectionism.
Ask yourself (or get a good friend to ask you) the following questions. Some people find it helpful to write down their answers.
Consider completing this table.
|My current pattern - pros||My current pattern - cons|
|Changing my current pattern - pros||Changing my current pattern - cons|
What did you learn from this exercise? How ready are you to change your current pattern? Spend some time writing down your thoughts on a piece of paper.
It may be an advantage to make an action plan that includes specific activities and a time plan. Ask yourself the following questions:
The Student Counselling Service has produced a leaflet with lots of good advice on how you can manage your standards and your desire for perfection. We have listed some of the advice here, but, if you would like to read more, you can follow the link at the bottom of the page.
Set realistic and achievable goals
Base your goals on your current situation and resources. It makes a difference whether you have three days or three weeks for an assignment, just as it makes a difference if there is illness in your immediate family. The fact that you scored 12 in a previous exam or at school does not mean you always need 12 across all your courses.
Stress, nerves and depression – what are they telling you?
Take the signals your body gives you seriously. If you are sleeping badly, have stomach aches, are restless, or feel the need to isolate or over-work, it is usually a sign that the goals you have set yourself are unrealistic and are not relevant to your actual life.
What do others expect of you?
Check out what your supervisor or study group expect of your work – and their own. Compare this with your own expectations. If you, for example, are happy to say that you “just need to pass the next exam”, you can stop studying to the extent required to achieve a two-digit grade.
Remember that you will continue to learn once you enter the workplace
The labour market does not expect perfect graduates but people who are engaged and prepared to learn from the mistakes they will inevitably make.