Performance is the process of carrying out or accomplishing an action, task, or function. In terms of college students, performance is the grades they are earning, the summer opportunities they have, and the career prospects they’re headed towards. Do you have an internship yet? Are you doing research? Which clubs are you involved with on campus? These are common questions a college student faces. There is nothing wrong with college students holding high expectations for themselves or wanting to get good grades; that is a good trait for a student to have. However, they must be aware of the link between performance and self-esteem.
Self-esteem is confidence in one’s own worth or abilities. This can take a hit when performance does not exceed expectations. For students, experiencing a low test score, being recommended to take fewer classes, or hitting a wall in school will often lead to a lack of confidence. This will drive a student further from reaching the performance they are striving toward. This can often turn into a cyclical process. Struggling with school performance morphs into a loss of confidence and leads to poor school performance and self-esteem issues.
The cycle described can lead to isolation. I find this most common in college student might become more and more isolated. Emotional walls and barriers become more fortified. The student is no longer letting teachers or parents in on their struggle. This results in a student not willing to do the work, with low motivation, or refusing help. It’s particularly damaging when students stop advocating for themselves and are incapable of recognizing that they need help. At this point, withdrawal and isolation can take over.
So how can students fight back against isolation? A shifting perspective is needed. A student needs to have an understanding that performance goes up and down. There are peaks and valleys; the valleys require more work than the peaks. Setbacks are normal and should be expected. By shifting one’s mindset, a student can identify their mistakes, analyze skills, and create practices to improve. A coach can facilitate this process. Growth can happen through self-awareness, self-evaluation, and executive function skill development. This process requires feedback and support, but it can help students overcome lackluster performance, low self-esteem, and the resulting, negative academic behaviors.