We live in a culture of constant doing.
While this may not seem bad on the surface, the constant pressure of meeting deadlines and engaging in maximum productivity can be toxic not only to the doers, but also to the people around them.
Especially in the college environment, some students see their peers taking a seemingly-extreme amount of credits and joining many extracurricular activities and may feel as though they need to do more than they can handle.
From personal experience, I believe that this mindset of relentless productivity can be destructive both for the doer and for observers.
Since starting college, I have joined various organizations to explore my passions and gain experience beyond the classroom. I became part of journalism-related organizations to gain exposure and experience pertaining to my major as well as mentorship and leadership organizations.
Upsides and downsides have presented themselves throughout this process. My involvement has helped me feel less homesick. I have found diverse support systems on campus and had the ability to explore what I love. However, there have been times when I have felt like there was too much on my plate, and I am still learning how to find a healthy balance.
I noticed the intensity and competitiveness of involvement culture on college campuses. Involvement should be fulfilling and enriching. Students should partake in extracurricular activities to grow and find themselves; they shouldn’t be pressured to fill up a resume or follow the crowd.
Involvement culture has the tendency to place certain students on a pedestal, creating unrealistic expectations for all parties involved.
The involved student feels as though they need to constantly excel and strive to keep “doing” in order to be the person who those around them see. These conventions can also make other students feel discouraged and seemingly invalidate their college experience.
I believe that this toxic involvement culture can be alleviated by shifting mindsets from cutthroat and competitive to accepting and understanding. While this is easier said than done, I encourage everyone to stop comparing themselves and their success to that of the people around them.
Prioritizing your own mental health remains imperative to success during college and beyond.
According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety presents itself in the lives of 42% of college students and depression in 36%. These statistics demonstrate the importance of students having healthy interactions with their involvement and their peers.
Putting mental health first may look different among different students. Most universities have on–campus counseling resources that students can make use of. Focusing on your mental health can also be a more individual journey.
Knowing how to manage time and stress can make the college experience more rewarding. With skilled time management, students can become more involved, if they wish, or simply focus on schoolwork and what makes them happy. The University of Florida’s Counseling and Wellness Center emphasizes the importance of responding to your stress and knowing what works best for you.
Fulfillment should be the main goal in involvement, in my opinion.
Quality should be highlighted over quantity. Few times exist in the professional world where hundreds of clubs and organizations are present in the same place catering to infinite interests. People should take advantage of this period where they can truly explore a massive range of interests.
With a culture of doing comes a pressure to reach what others are accomplishing. Constant comparison and self deprecation do not aid productivity. “Use comparison, instead, to become a better person and maybe even make your little corner of the world a better place,” Dr. Susan Biali Haas wrote. Comparison can be shifted positively into motivation by using it as a means of finding goals from people you admire.
Small changes made in day-to-day interactions, both with yourself and with others, can help shift the narrative of productivity. Accomplishment should be encouraging and constructive to the accomplisher and those around them. Involvement in college should not hinder the growth and development of this stage.