Graduation, Uncertainty, and Self-Compassion

Recently, a friend asked me, “So, what are your post-graduation plans?” I found myself holding my breath, scrambling to find words to explain the uncertainty I felt about my future. The words “I don’t know” felt too shameful. I was nearing the end of my undergraduate degree and I had a good understanding of my interests. Still, a series of ‘unsuccessful’ applications left me floundering in uncertainty.

As someone who thrives when I have purpose and direction, I found it incredibly unsettling to embrace the unknown. A few months from graduation, I didn’t know where I was soon going to be, what I would be doing, and where I would be living. I tied the setbacks I faced in my application process to my sense of self-worth. I was growing increasingly weary of my ability to succeed and became emotionally reserved. I felt guilty when I took time to play and relax, knowing that I didn’t even have my next few months figured out.

Slowly, I began to realize that my low self-worth was holding me back. I began to practice self-compassion instead–and it was liberating. Self-compassion is appreciating the value that you have, regardless of external circumstances and especially in moments of uncertainty and self-doubt. For me, it meant being as kind with myself as I am with others and disassociating my setbacks from my potential.

Curious about what it looks like in practice? Here are some useful tips to help you incorporate self-compassion into your daily life:

  • Take compliments at face value and embrace them. It can be easy to brush off praise by highlighting what isn’t right. In every genuine compliment, there is truth. In every achievement, there is value. So, embrace it because you’ve worked for it.
  • Be mindful of your thoughts when facing setbacks. Are these thoughts about yourself constructive or negative? How can you shift your perspective to cherish your value?
  • Take small moments out of your day for some self-appreciation. In times of uncertainty and self-doubt, try taking brief moments out of your day to appreciate something about yourself.

I’ve learned a lot during my struggles with graduation:

Compassion is freeing. When I practice compassion in moments of self-doubt, I learn to trust that I am capable of achieving my goals. Though excellence is commendable, it is equally important to value our humanness. When we have tried our absolute best, it is enough.

Compassion can boost our wellbeing. Research shows that practicing self-compassion in moments of setback can improve our motivation and engagement. When we give ourselves the same compassion that we often give to others, we can feel more capable and empowered.

It’s okay to be uncertain. Everyone’s journey through university and life is unique. It is okay to be uncertain, even when others appear to be so certain. Uncertainty can lead you to opportunities and experiences you may never have thought of before.

Compassion can go a long way in alleviating the stress of post-grad uncertainty. From the first year of university to the last, a high self-worth coupled with an abundance of self-compassion can improve our mental wellbeing. Especially when we face setbacks. So go on, fill your arms with self-love and embrace the unknown.

How do you face uncertainty?

Post written by: Alice Guo, Wellness Peer 

One Reply to “Graduation, Uncertainty, and Self-Compassion”

  1. Thank you for your piece. I’m glad there are people who continue to bring these ideas to those who may need it. I face uncertainty in a different way, it’s called the Stockdale Paradox.

    http://ndoherty.com/stockdale-paradox/

    It channels more of mental strength in a different way, but still requires awareness.

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