Saturday 24 June 2017

Leaving Cert students, you are braver and smarter than you think

Author Bernice Barrington obtained maximum points in her Leaving Cert, but she also suffered chronic anxiety. Here she recounts her conflicted feelings about that period and offers advice to students preparing to sit the exam

'The first few minutes will be scary as hell but, as each day goes by,
you will feel more relaxed, more confident.' Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
'The first few minutes will be scary as hell but, as each day goes by, you will feel more relaxed, more confident.' Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Bernice Barrington

So, the Leaving Cert is here - and if you're one of the 60,000-plus students sitting these exams, you're probably feeling pretty anxious right around now. Be warned - over the coming days you're going to hear lots of middle-aged radio and TV presenters telling you that 'it doesn't really matter', 'it will all work out in the end' and 'sure they're just a few exams - didn't I fail everything except art, and now look at me - CEO of this Fortune 500 company', or whatever.

Don't feel bad if you want to slap these people (hard) for their patronising dismissal of something you've been working your ass off on for the past two years. They don't understand, or maybe they do and they've forgotten. It's OK for this to feel like the most important thing in your life, ever. Because, guess what? It probably is.

Okay, first things first, let me tell you a bit about my own Leaving Cert story. I sat my exams back in 1997, three weeks after my 18th birthday, and I wasn't just 'pretty anxious', as I alluded to back in the first paragraph, I was a nervous wreck. All my life I had been a straight-A, people-pleasing exam machine, but somewhere around the age of 17 - and on the back of severe bullying, low self-esteem and more than a passing tendency towards obsessive perfectionism - things started to unravel.

Please sign in or register with Independent.ie for free access to Opinions.

Sign In

Don't Miss