How to stop imagining the worst

I’m panicked about grades. How can I cope?

Our elder suggests living in the moment rather than dreading the unknown.

Dear EWC:

Hello. How are you? I’m writing because I’m feeling very nervous and not confident at all in what might occur in the next few days. I’m from the UK and at the age of 16 you have to do a set of exams called GCSEs. Obviously due to COVID-19 all exams had to be cancelled (first time in history), so we basically have no idea how the hell we are going to be marked and graded.

Ever since I was 11 years old, fresh into secondary school, it was drilled into my head how important these exams were. And how they would dictate my future. Coming up is results day. The horrible day where after months of waiting and panicking we receive what could show an excellent set of marks. Or a complete failure (to my parents there is no in-between).

I understand that I’m probably not going to get the marks my parents want. I know my abilities and to me they are merely average. I guess I’m just scared of opening that brown envelope and being upset with what’s on it. I don’t want to disappoint anyone. Not my parents or my teachers. I wouldn’t know how to deal with being surrounded by other happy faces and then there’s me holding in tears (I am a very emotional person. It’s my fatal flaw).

Grandpa-Matt replies:

Suppose I told you that I might lend you money someday. Would you start paying me interest today on the loan that I haven’t made to you yet? Your answer would be “absolutely not!” Worrying about times where something might negatively impact you is like paying interest on a debt that you might never owe.

That is what you are doing when you are entertaining the fear that you are not going to get the marks that your parents want for you. When you think of disappointing your parents or teachers by not achieving the goals desired, you are using your imagination to create a negative fantasy. The emotional fear triggers the idea that you are then responsible for their reactions. Nothing could be further from the truth. You are never responsible for the emotions of another person!
When you say you are a (flawed) very emotional person, it is a misinterpretation of reality. Every action we take is a result of an emotion or a mood state. Whenever you experience fear taking over, remind yourself to stay fully present in the moment. Remember, fear is only present when you go away from right now to an imagined negative fantasy. That brown envelope hasn’t arrived yet.

Since the future is unknown, we are free to blaze any path that we can make up. Those who say, I can handle whatever happens, is creating a positive fantasy based on their attitude. Whatever point of view you take will make it real. I hope this is helpful to allow you to live more in the moment. Just play the hand that you are dealt with, and you will be OK.
Write back and let us know how you are doing. We welcome the opportunity to serve. Good luck.

Letter #: 462229
Category: School

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