On the evening of Wednesday, November 15, a diverse group of postgraduate and undergraduate students gathered at the Business School for a panel discussion on the impacts of stress and the fear of failure on student life.
The panel, organised by the Business School staff, consisted of six individuals: motivation speaker Paula McGuire, Director of Undergraduate Programmes at the University, a recent Business School graduate, Professor Mary Brenna, and Professor Wendy Loretto and Peter Flett.
The discussion covered a variety of topics, including panelists sharing their own stories of self-doubt and insecurity. The event began with a presentation by Paula McGuire, who has struggled with long term depression and anxiety. In her presentation, McGuire discussed how mental illness and “crippling insecurity” had prevented her from trying new things due to a fear of failure. In particular, she rarely played sport due to a specific piece of criticism she received from her childhood PE teacher: “Paula needs to try harder.”
However, eventually in an effort to resist her own illness, Paula, with the help of her husband and family, took her old PE teacher’s criticism and made it into a mantra. She began to try a variety of sports to challenge herself, starting with cycling, and eventually dabbling in extreme sports. Her next endeavour is in spring 2018, when she plans to become the first person in history to swim the entirety of the perimeter of mainland Britain, a journey which will take six months. McGuire ended the talk by encouraging audience members to “not be afraid to try and fail”.
Other speakers shared similar messages of encouragement. Professor Flett reflected on the pressures surrounding masculinity as a young university student in Scotland. The inability for young men to express emotion, he said, often leads them to engaging in self-destructive coping methods such as smoking or drinking to excess. However, he pushed that: “Failure doesn’t define us – we are here for a good time, not a long time!”
Image: Ivan Lai / Photographer