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3 Things We Can Learn From Students’ Secret Fears

What if you could jump into your students’ minds and see what is preventing them from being the person they aspire to be?

For the past few years, I’ve collected thousands (and still collect) thousands of students’ fears as a way to connect and speak specifically to their internal struggles with the hope that it will help them move closer to success. Every fear is collected anonymously; typed, analyzed, and then categorized through ATLAS software. Here are three things we can learn from students’ secret fears:

They need to know they’re not alone.
I can’t say it enough. After reading note cards and private messages, too many students think they are alone, not realizing that their peers are experiencing the same thoughts. I still get goosebumps at the silence of a room, filled with hundreds of students, when their fears are read out loud. I’m convinced that part of the silence is due to the students’ realization for the first time that they’re not the only ones dealing with a problem. We need to continually stress that whatever they are experiencing, ten times out of ten, someone else is as well.

Their past is heavily influencing their present.
We often attempt to pile leadership techniques on a shaky 18-year old foundation of self-doubt, confidence issues, and pressure from family and friends. Allowing students to talk about life experiences that shaped them is the first step to rebuilding. Creating safe spaces, small discussion groups, and ways to speak anonymously are all ways in which students can share with their peers their experiences in an open and honest environment. Students will be able to address and own their past; at their own pace. Their vulnerability will help build their future.

They really fear failure.
The #1 word that the ATLAS software pulled from the written responses I have received is the word failure. When the responses are categorized, the top fear category is the fear of failing or not being successful at a whopping 43%. Hands down – our students fear failure. Students aren’t stepping up because they are afraid of what might happen if they fail – they don’t understand the added value when life doesn’t go as planned. We have to highlight and reward students when they take risks, and they don’t end up successful, so they are more comfortable in failing and learning important lessons for growth.

Knowing these three points helps us catch a glimpse into student fears and allows us to help support them. I share with students that fearlessness doesn’t mean skydiving and being reckless – fearlessness is taking that obstacle in between you and your aspirations and taking the next step to overcome it.

Learn more about Darryl Bellamy at campuspeak.com/bellamy.