Looking for a bridge over troubled water? Krithvi Shyam, our young psychologist, addresses your worst anxieties.

I am 18 and have just written my Std. XII Board exams. During the course of the academic year, my family was very supportive. My parents paid a reasonable amount of money to enroll me in coaching classes. Breakfast and lunch would be prepared before 5:30 am every weekday. My father would wake up at 5.00 a.m. to take me to classes. But they would only occasionally ask about my preparation.

Now, I am extremely nervous about my exam results, especially because of the high hopes that my family seems to have. I have always been confident about finding success in life. Somehow I feel that even if my Std. XII board results are poor, I would find a way to settle well. But I am so worried that my potentially poor performance is going to shatter my family and bring them shame. The guilt that would come out of not being able to repay my family for all the pain and suffering that they have gone through the entire year for my sake, would wreck me. I feel horrible already…

ANXIOUS

Let’s imagine you’re on a plane. No airline official is going to upgrade you to First Class just because you scored centum in Physics and gave your family 100 Honour points. Your upgrade could depend on countless other factors — e.g., how full the flight is or whether you’re a frequent flyer. Similarly, even if you scored 50 per cent, no one’s going to kick you off the plane for accumulating 50 Shame points. You could get thrown off for other reasons, like picking a fight with the airhostess because you were about to surpass your existing high score on Temple Run and didn’t want to turn your phone off.

This is just a roundabout way of saying that your exam results are not Golden Tickets that will make you set for life. Many other factors can affect the course of your future, and a considerable number are within your control. Channel the optimism you have now into hard work and motivation to reach your goals. Regardless of whatever results you get in this set of exams or the next, your only job as a student is to put in your best effort. If you’ve done that, you really have nothing to feel guilty about. It sounds like your parents have been supportive without being overbearing, so I wonder if your worries stem from your own imagination rather than amma/appa explicitly saying “If you do badly you will bring shame upon us all”?  A person’s marks are not the ones in a symbiotic relationship with the family, but the person him/herself. Others might forget how you did in your Board exams after a couple of years (unless they’re particularly competitive aunties), but they will remember your kindness, diligence and sincerity throughout their lives, and they will attribute those qualities to your parents doing a good job. 

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