Long before Beyoncé had Sasha Fierce, my studies at U of T helped me craft an alter-ego of my own: Monster Fariya. She developed from my love of Monster energy drinks, which I seem to consume effortlessly when I am running on two (or less) hours of sleep. What started as a running joke about my state of mental health (“Uh oh! She’s drinking Monster – she must be exhausted … a walking zombie”) became a full-fledged personality that’s completely independent from Regular Fariya (who I need to find a new name for, as no Fariya is ever regular – or normal!).
Although my development of an alter-ego may sound a bit crazy, a lot of students in university struggle with defining their identity and then communicating that – the person they want to be – to other people. Especially during the last two weeks of classes and the three weeks of exams, students are overcome with feelings of anxiety, exhaustion and frustration. They can barely form a coherent thought, let alone muster up a personality. In addition, conflicting feelings result in students acting unlike themselves – short-tempered, snappy and frankly… monster-like.
When the monster in you begins to surface, how can you keep your head, stay calm and keep asserting the ‘regular you’?
Unleash the beast!
You can learn so much from your monster self and, in fact, the monster is a part of many people’s identity. Your monster will not just surface during exam times; it will growl furiously during stressful periods later in your academic career, your work life, as you face parenting challenges and more. Rather than trying to suppress it, you should embrace it and enjoy it. Don’t despair about its consequences: if you can learn about your monster, where it comes from and how to control it, then you can enjoy being a monster every day of the week!
Recognize the Symptoms
On Tuesday mornings, for example, getting up at 5:45 a.m. to commute for our Upbeat meetings at 8, then suffering through six hours of classes which end at 9 p.m., followed by a commute home means I’m grouchy and uncharacteristically snappy (especially to those who seem to care little about my plight). Every time I meet my friends on Tuesday, I forewarn them: “I’m tired, burnt out and not thinking straight. If I say something mean, ignore it, because Monster Fariya is out of her cage and running freely today.”
I know that symptoms such as lack of sleep, becoming quickly irritated by small things and hypersensitivity are indicative of my monster. For my best friend, the symptoms are totally different. Her attitude morphs into one that completely lacks optimism. Whenever I call her and I hear about how life stinks in every possible way and how it will never get better, I know her monster is out. In recognizing the symptoms, I remember to be extra-patient and understanding with her.
Signs of your inner monster can range anywhere from a quick temper to feelings of depression. When your monster becomes uncontrollable, you may need a bit of help; whether it’s from a close friend who lets you vent, or professional help from the expert monster tamers at Counseling and Psychological Services.
Minimize the Damage
Once you recognize the symptoms of your monster breaking free from its cage, you can attempt to minimize the damage. My Tuesdays, for example, set loose a free-reign Monster Fariya who is very confrontational. As a result, I stay away from touchy subjects and I limit myself to doing the majority of my communicating via email. Email allows me to think carefully about the words I use, rather than arguing in person, where, in the heat of the moment, my monster may rear its ugly head. It’s a buffer to protect the innocent and help bring Regular Fariya back. On days where you know life is really giving you a hard time, don’t be afraid to hibernate for a bit and surface when your monster is under control.
Use Your Monster Positively
I used to look at my monster ego as a bad thing, as something separate from my identity. I used to think “I’m just in a bad mood – I’m not myself today.” Now, I use my monster-self as a positive identity. When I am upset about something serious, I tell people “Monster Fariya has something to say.” Monster Fariya tells it like it is. Regular Fariya might be a bit scared to start a confrontation, but when Monster Fariya comes out, I go from being scared to scary.
Your monster should never be used as a mask. That would mean hiding behind a separate identity when you really need to communicate serious feelings. So instead, I recognize my monster as a part of me, the part that tells it like she sees it, who isn’t afraid to get in your face and be honest, who doesn’t put up with crap and who fights for things worth fighting for.
I name this part of my identity Monster Fariya so that I can more clearly communicate who I am (an issue that many students struggle with), but Monster Fariya and Regular Fariya are all one person. Part of defining who you are means recognizing that you are a complex multi-faceted human being. You can either reject some parts of your personality and struggle to suppress them, or you can unleash the beast and bask in the many, different, wonderful “yous.”
Tell me, what’s your monster like?