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Opinion: Combined efforts from staff, faculty, campus departments may lessen self-criticism among students

A united campus can work together to promote mental health and increase resources for struggling, stressed-out students.

For many, college is a high-stress environment, especially for those striving to finish the school year with near-perfect grades. While good grades are one of the better goals to have, a perfectionist attitude is linked to self-criticism. This can be a very harmful mindset.

Self-criticism has three components: the reassurance self, the inadequate self, and the hated self. The reassurance self is healthy, while the other two cause lower self-esteem and additional mental health issues. Self-criticism has the potential to lead to self-harm or suicide. Therefore, the goal is to stop the criticism before it has a chance to manifest, or to combat it in those who already suffer from it. 

Two ideas for combating self-criticism on campus include the implementation of community involvement and upgrades to therapeutic help.

First, Rollins students and faculty can work together to post words and phrases of affirmation around campus, especially on bathroom mirrors. People who struggle with eating disorders tend to have higher levels of self-criticism than those without eating disorders. Seeing themselves in the mirror is a common trigger for harmful thoughts. Therefore, placing approved notes of kindness on mirrors would be a great way to combat maladaptive thoughts in students’ heads and brighten people’s days.

An aspect of mental health that Rollins excels in is promoting mental health resources on campus. Rollins makes it known that help is always available, which is important for those who struggle with self-criticism. 

The Wellness Center has its own Instagram account dedicated to making the community aware of its many services, including a Wellness Tracker App with built-in meditations, and it offers workshops and group or individual therapies. 

However, the current wait time for one-on-one counseling appointments is up to two weeks. If the school increased its capacity for appointments and added additional types of counseling services, it could counter the two-week waiting period. 

We could take this a step further and post signs around campus that encourage students to go to the Wellness Center.

Keeping busy is another integral part of combating maladaptive self-criticism because people find it an easy way to cope with their thoughts and feelings. We could encourage community involvement and make more activities available as a result, especially exercise.

Exercising can soothe symptoms of self-criticism because of the release of dopamine during physical activities. Increasing the amount of exercise-related activities that are just for fun and not competitive could also encourage a more social environment.

The last method to fight maladaptive self-criticism on campus is to encourage specialized group therapy. Students will form social bonds in a safe environment while learning that they aren’t going through this alone. Seeing that others have struggles will lessen their need for perfectionism and bring students together under the idea that no one is perfect.

As of right now, Rollins offers group therapy for eating disorders, stress reduction, sexual assault survivors, relationship building, leadership, depression, anxiety, and addiction. For self-criticism, group therapy would need to be a combination of humanistic and cognitive theories, emphasizing an increase in self-esteem. 

Humanistic therapy is the best way to boost self-esteem because of the constant affirmations the therapist provides. Cognitive therapy is also extremely important because of the need for students to control their own thoughts and reframe their criticism in healthy ways. 

Therapists could also engage students in two-chair dialogue, where students address their self-criticism as if another person is saying the criticizing things to them. They could also encourage students to write down their maladaptive thoughts and push them to actively refute those thoughts, rewiring thereby their own cognition.

While social media has a way of bringing people together, it also is a trigger for those who struggle with perfectionism and maladaptive self-criticism. It is necessary for students to be reminded that social media posts can be edited and that people only post what they want others to see.

A combination of the previously stated ideas can help transform students’ lives and combat self-criticism, which many students face on campus.

Students can click here to request a CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) appointment with the Wellness Center.

Opinion Disclaimer: The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of The Sandspur or Rollins College.

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