Have you suffered from HSCSD?

As I put cursor to screen, the Higher School Certificate season is well under way. Students across the state will put to the test, so to speak, many years of hard work or otherwise.

Parents, teachers, relatives and friends will offer students their support, prayers and encouragement. The use of the word ‘stress’ will increase over sundry HSC-related conversations around many dinner tables. Students will stress, parents will stress about their children stressing and so it will go on, until that magic minute, when the SMS messages arrive carrying the much-anticipated results.

Twenty-four hours later, the conversation will have moved on to more important matters such as holidays and Christmas celebrations!

Many years ago a student of mine was suffering from what I now consider to be Higher School Certificate Stress Disorder (HSCSD). He spoke frequently about his concerns. My offering was, “Over the coming years very few people will be interested in your HSC results.”

He later wrote to me saying, “Just to let you know, I’m three years into my university course and no one has ever asked me about my HSC results.”

Of course, it is wise to make good use of school education. Students seeking to achieve their full potential deserve high praise. However, the achieving of one’s full potential is a life-long process which can’t be fully realised at the close of Year 12.

Full potential is a relative term, and can seem at times to be a rather vague notion about hopes and dreams for living a meaningful life here on planet Earth. The plethora of self-help literature that abounded in the 1980s and beyond provided its own specialised language.  All of a sudden reaching for one’s higher self was a ‘must do’ self improvement strategy. Self-actualisation was within the reach of ordinary people like me, and perhaps you, dear reader. ‘Mindfulness’ was a serious dinner party conversation piece. Being in touch with one’s inner child was a sure-fire way of regaining a sense of innocence and, dare I say, playfulness! Visiting a playground, running carefree in a park, climbing a tree, eating ice-cream at whim became de rigueur for those in pursuit of a meaningful life.

Self-affirmation mantras became popular as well, statements such as:

  • I love and accept myself unconditionally.
  • I approve of myself and feel great about myself.
  • I am a unique and a very special person and worthy of respect from others.
  • I am solution-minded. Any problem that comes up in life is solvable.
  • I am never alone.
  • My mind is full of gratitude for my lovely and wonderful life.
  • The universe supports me and is with me at every step.

The idea of working to reinforce a positive self-image certainly has merit and can play a vital role in the maintenance of self-worth or self-esteem as one travels along the road to self-fulfilment.  

But wait a minute, can I always accept myself unconditionally? Will I always feel good about myself? I am unique, special and worthy, but how do I approach earning respect from others? Yes, it’s good to approach problem-solving in a positive manner but what strategies might I employ to deal with disappointment? Aloneness and loneliness are challenges that face individuals from time to time. Gratefulness is a beautiful quality even when life is not so lovely or can appear less wonderful. I’ll leave the notion of a supportive universe for others to ponder.

Perhaps the real challenge facing the graduating students of 2014 might be how to build and develop a spirit of resilience as they chase the dream of self-fulfilment? The ability to adapt to stress and life’s tribulations seems intimately connected to the notion of self-fulfilment. A positive attitude and a sense of optimism are vital in all of this.

By the time these few thoughts appear, the HSC season will be drawing to a close and yes, we’ll be doing it all again next year. 2015 is on its way, bringing with it fresh possibilities and opportunities. As we make our resolutions for the year ahead, perhaps ‘a sense of curiosity’ might head our list. A quick glance at a dictionary found the following: ‘Curiosity: a strong desire to know or learn something’. Curiosity might well be a life goal for the class of 2015. Aha – self-fulfilment!

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