Students should fight to overcome their fears and take the initiative to participate in college activities.

Ekta wanted to take part in the poster competition but did not dare enter her name for it. This was the last event for the second year. Ekta was completing two years of college without a single extra-curricular activity under her belt. Third year of college would be very hectic on the academic front. Some of her seniors said there was absolutely no time for anything outside of exams and assignments. Ekta felt miserable. She too wanted to participate and compete, but she just could not summon the courage to do so.

Ekta is not alone. While at school, a few students participate in activities outside the classroom, the vast majority remain spectators. It does not appear to matter much at that stage. But college is different. College is the preparing ground for adult life. While there is still no compulsion to participate in any event, students feel the need to be more participative.

Those who have set their sights on higher academics and research, or on going abroad for higher studies, know that the brownie points they score by participating in activities matter at the qualification level. Those who aspire for a corporate career also know that candidates who show varied interests are preferred by corporate head hunters.

Some students blossom easily and effortlessly in the new environment. Here, they find far more opportunities for exploring themselves and their talents than they ever did at school. Here they are free to choose: no teacher orchestrates and manages who plays what role and in which activity.

But it is not easy for everyone. For many students there is a huge mental block of diffidence and timidity to overcome.

Afsan was passionate about his studies. He had some fancy ideas which he thought would make great research topics. But his problem was he did not know whom to consult. He could of course talk to the head of department. But he was afraid that he would be sidelined. Was his idea too trivial? Afsan’s love for his subjects and his original thinking made him summon up the courage to enter his name for project assistantship and traineeship opportunities that came up in his department. But every time his candidature was overlooked, he felt demoralised. Every rejection took him a step away from his cherished goal of contributing positively in and outside of the class.

While some students like Ekta are frozen by their timidity, others like Afsan are suffocated by their own painfully self-conscious and sensitive natures. Deep down, both want to do well in life. But, they find no mentor on the horizon to give them a leg up. They sink into self pity and this only makes it worse for them.

The real fight

Fighting one’s own demons requires determination and perseverance. It requires constant self-counselling and auto suggestion. Clip away the thoughts that are negative and replace them with positive ones. Tell yourself that if others can do it, so can you. If you have stage fright and are afraid of a giggly audience, tell yourself it does not matter if they mock at you. It does not matter what anybody thinks. You are never going to be able to stop people thinking the way they do. The worst possible course would be to give up your dreams because of your fear of others.

If your fear is failure, tell yourself that everyone makes mistakes. Failure is not the end of life. Face your failures bravely. Clinically analyse what went wrong and what you can do better next time. Talk frankly with a close friend and ask for suggestions in your struggle against your own negatives. Let that motivate you to take the next big step. Just enter your name the next time an event is announced.

Go through the torture of self-doubt and fright. Battle it out with yourself. Let the world laugh. Don’t pay attention to it. And if you fail, steel yourself for the next battle. But don’t postpone the battle. The sooner you go through fire, the quicker you will emerge all burnished and shining.