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Theme: The pressure of insecurity in study life

Insecurity - "Why on earth are we not talking about it?"

"I do not dare to tell others if I think a subject is difficult. I'm just dealing with it myself. But why the hell aren't we talking about it to try to find a solution? I believe it's because nobody wants to be perceived as being stupid. In essence, you are scared of what others might think."
This is how Amalie, a first year Cand.merc.jur. student, voices her experiences as a CBS student. She is one of 25 students, who has been interviewed as a part of the research project thus far, and she also featured as a participant in our podcast addressing the pressure of insecurity. She is not alone feeling this way sometimes. The research shows that feelings of insecurity, inadequacy and worries about what others might think are common and reoccurring for many students, but also that many keep it to themselves. Some of the students involved with the stress and well-being project are wondering why it is so, and are expressing a wish to challenge this tendency. An example is Sarah, a HA(phil.) student, who sat down with Pernille Steen Pedersen for a video interview and reflections about insecurity and pressure from being a CBS student. In the video, Sarah states: "The strange thing is that we are all students, we are all in the same boat, yet no one is talking about it. I feel as if everyone else has figured it out, and is in control of it (their studies). I think it’s really important that you open up and get these taboos broken and talk about that even though everything can look so perfect from the outside, everyone is fighting the same battle on the inside.” Sarah, and other students, have encouraged Pernille Steen Pedersen to focus on stress and well-being among students at CBS, to help students understand and take serious their feelings, and to help facilitate ways students can support each other better. They are active participants in Pedersen's research project because they wish to see a change of culture at CBS and want to support fellow students. They want to see this movement happen and to be part of it. One way they are doing this is by breaking taboos through speaking up openly and sharing challenges they have experienced. As Anders, a first year HA.(almen) student, explains: "If people have a hard time expressing it or speaking about it, either because they are not comfortable talking about their emotions or because they feel that it is taboo, then you can show videos with other students (addressing insecurity); where you then feel like "wow, that is exactly how I felt too", so that it becomes easier for them, and normalized, that these challenges are part of being a student. Showing that it is normal to have such feelings instead of people are thinking they are wrong."

Normalizing the pressure of insecurity

The pressure of insecurity can show up in many different ways in the study environment and lead to stress. It can for example manifest as a feeling of inadequacy in relation to a specific study subject or group work situation, or as worries about being seen as not smart or good enough, if one has difficulties with some of the work. Pedersen's research shows that these feeling are widespread and a normal part of study life, but the lack of openness about it and taboo around it makes the pressure greater. Therefore, as the students above suggest, starting to speak about it and normalizing it, can be an important step for stress-prevention, better learning conditions and well-being among students. A part of the project is to create material that can serve to this end. Simply put: We see a great need and potential to initiate and support a movement where students are encouraged and given tools to express their challenges and feelings as well as concrete ways to act on them. It entails to create an environment where students feel safe to express themselves, as Sarah, HA. phil. student, describes:
"It also requires that CBS creates an environment where it is safe to talk about these things. Because it is not there now, I do not feel that it is. It should be normalized. Break this taboo, be more compassionate and be more sensitive. Because sensitivity is not a weakness, it is a strength."
On the theme of insecurity, we have produced two podcasts and a few videos discussing the topic and normalizing some feelings, many students think they are alone in experiencing. There are also suggestions to how the material can be integrated into teaching. All material is available on the next page "material."

Last updated by: Anne Sofie Fischer 12/10/2021