Am I a monster every day of the week? Harnessing your inner Hulk

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?

- Fariya

18 comments on “Am I a monster every day of the week? Harnessing your inner Hulk

  1. Great article Fariya. I’m glad you brought up the issue of multiple identities!

    Sometimes, though, I wonder if there is really a fixed part of my personality. My personality seems to me fluid and constantly affected by the environment. For instance, I know that in the summer, I feel a little colder and more insensitive to others – I don’t know why. (Maybe it’s the heat, or boredom, or the lack of seemingly important things going on.) Is our identity really something fixed and concrete that we can define? Or is it something that is continually reacting to the environment?

  2. Hey Timmy!

    Thank you for your comment. It is so interesting what you said about the environment/weather affecting your mood – for some people, the cold, bleak weather is actually a downer, and the warm, spring weather makes people happy! Although, I recognize your comment about summer to be true: I personally feel very sluggish in the heat, and when I am caught out in the sun and feeling unbearably hot, I get a bit snappy. The cold weather keeps me alert and brisk, the hot weather makes me sluggish. 🙂

    You also asked a really great question – can we really define our identity or is it something that is continually reacting to the environment.? It’s both, I think. On one hand, I think, you can make some generalizations about yourself (e.g. extreme heat makes me sluggish and snappy). But on the other hand, it’s very difficult to pinpoint who you are without recognizing the fluidity of our identities. Certainly, our interaction with our environments shape our personalities. Environment can be lots of things – weather, people, location, sense of orientation, etc. It’s tough enough to define environment, let alone how we respond to it! In addition, age and new experiences develop our sense of identity. Certainly, who are are today can be very different from who we are 10 years from now, or 5 years from now, or even 6 months from now.

    I think that is what makes human beings so interesting. Identity can mean so many things, and is defined differently by so many people.

    Some parts of my personality I can trace back right to my young childhood. In many ways, I am very similar to who I was at the age of 7 (and now I am 20!) To me personally, those are core elements of who I am, because they remain unchanging despite my surrounding environment or new experiences. On the other hand, the person I was at seven, the person I am now, and the person I want to become will be so different, that it is impossible to pin down an identity.

    Thats the best part, I think. Learning who you are is a journey. And just when you think you’ve figured youself out, a new experience will jump into the “Identity Recipe” and spice things up :). I guess the important thing is not to suppress any part of you – to be proud of who you are, to be willing to change the part of you that you’d like to improve, and to learn that the “monster” parts of you are just as important and special as the “regular” parts.

    — Fariya

    p.s. What do you think? Are we ever able to define who we are? Can other people define who we are – or rather, who we project ourselves to be – better than we can?

  3. Hey Michelle!

    Thanks for your comment – you make me laugh.

    Monster denial is a common ailment. 🙂

    I used to try to be in denial about my monster, but too many people noticed the symptoms…starting with me chugging those awesome Monster energy drinks! 🙂 Doesn’t your monster ever get called out by close friends or family?

  4. @ Michelle and my other wonderful UpbeaT Readers.

    Michelle, your comment made me think of one of my friends who does something slightly different – she suppresses her monster, and pretends she doesn’t have one. The “Suppressed Monster” is a big problem! We try to make the “Suppressed Monster” the same as the “Dormant Monster” (who is naturally chilling rather than being suffocated down) but, I’ve discovered, the suppressed monster has a knack for getting out of its cage, at the most inconveniencing times. And when it comes out, talk about wreaking havoc in the city! I used to have the “Suppressed Monster” but the neon, raging monster that finally gets loose is too much for me to bear.

    Being in denial about your monster at least lets it out 🙂 It can destroy the city, but I don’t necessarily need to acknowledge it! 🙂

  5. Fariya,
    I honestly have no idea where my true monster lies… or where should I lay it..! this is getting way too philosophical for a LifeSci student!! But I get your point on the problematic side of suppressing it..
    BTW, by any chance were you literally referring to the consumption of that drink itself or just an ideology of getting into the STUDY *like no tmr*@ROBARTs 2/F mode?
    anyhow thanks very much for your great work =)

  6. Michelle,

    Monster-finding is tough. Sometimes, it takes a lifetime! And just when we think we have our monster pegged (green, scaly, big claws) it morphs according to the situation or our age and we have to learn to adapt.

    Haha, and this is definitely not too philosophical for you – some of my life science, commerce and drama friends are the most interesting and philosophical people I know. Rock on, Monster Michelle!

    As for your question – I am not sure I clearly understand it, but the reference to Monster (or did you mean a different reference) was initially due to the Monster Energy drinks, literally. I named a Monster alter-ego or, “Monster-ego” or “Monster Fariya” after the drinks, but it later became a title that had nothing to do with the drinks at all.

    If you could name your Monster, what would it be?


  7. Yea. You’re right Fariya, it takes a fair amount of time (and courage) for one to recognize their inner monster. And yea you got my question right… I honestly have no innovative mind to name that little monester inside of me.. who is keeping me away from focusing on my exam tmr! It’s gonna be my last humanity course ever but the context is just so heavy to digest and since I’ve had a week of marathon robarting, I have drained all my energy and not very bothered to prepare for this 15% CLOSED BOOK (w/pre-assigned questions) exam…I think I am standing by my little monester now. :S

  8. Hey Michelle!

    First of all, good luck on your exam. Congrats on your last Humanities course ever!

    It sounds like, from your marathon week of ‘robarting’ (i like it!) your monster is in high-intensity exam mode. You know, Monsters are a bit like mood rings – they morph miraculously. You’ve got Exam Monster Malady, and your monster is probably making you feel frustrated, tired and exhausted.

    It sounds to me like you need a bit of a break – Monsters sometimes do. A quick fix can really be helpful! One thing I learned about Monster Fariya is that when she needs a break, she really needs a break – fast. Actually, learning to tame my monster was one of the best tricks I ever learned!

    I developed a special medicine: I call them “Fariya-Only Days”. Basically, I decided to do something fun, for minimum half a day, all by myself. The requirements for a Fariya-Only day – or in your case, a Michelle-Only Day – includes significant time spent out of the house, going somewhere that no one you know could possibly know will run into you, and doing something fun. The motto of any “__(Your Name Here)__-Only Day” is a “Love Thy-self” theme. You turn off your phone, disappear from the world as you know it, and go exploring.

    In my Fariya-Only Days, I’ve trekked across downtown Toronto in the summer time, went to see several fantastic movies in the cinemas, enjoyed several theatre productions, went shopping, took a ferry to Centre Island and spent a day frolicking in the dun, visited amazing exhibits at both the ROM and the AGO and more. And I do all these things all on my own, with no company or friends or family or phone calls. On Fariya-Only Days, I eat what I want, watch whatever I want, and have a great time.

    Its sounds a bit silly – watching a movie on your own, but I can confidently tell you its amazing. I finally convinced a good friend of mine to try it, and she really enjoyed herself on a lovely day of walking around downtown Toronto and window-shopping.

    Michelle-Only days could be a great way to deal with your Exam Monster Malady. A quick break – even half a day, can make such a big difference. I know you won’t have time before your exam tomorrow, but after your exam, you should do something fun! It will take your mind off the stress and rejuvenate you for the next exam.

    If you could plan a Michelle-Only day – or for any of our readers, an __(Your Name Here)__-Only Day, what would you do? What would be your ideal day to tame your monster and bring back the Regular You?

  9. Fariya,
    Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment and advice. I made a change and have tried something new at the end. I spend my day doing group discussion study at Gerstein (still can`t get away from work) but I am totally with you! As a geminian, I am pretty good at keeping 2 versions of me going on at one time. =P

    As for the Michelle-only-hours, I promise I will do some intensive baking right after exam and go distribute them to my fellow marathon robarters! (plus that keeps me from excessive consumption of high caloric treats)
    Oh yea and of cos to catch up with some fun swimming at harthouse! Thanks so much again! All the best for the upcoming exams everyone =)

  10. @ Michelle: Thank you so much for your comments – it has been wonderful discussing with you about the monsters within every student. Good luck on your exams!

    @ other Readers/Michelle/Timmy: your insight on Monsters is always welcome! And I hope to also converse with you on my other posts – a new one should be up soon!



  11. Hi Fariya, thanks for replying my post. I certainly agree with you that our identities are both shaped by our environment and those “core elements” that don’t seem to change. This reminds me of PSY100 – our behaviour is affected by both nature and nurture :P. Now, I have to try to keep my mood up throughout this sluggish summer!

    I will look forward to your new post :). Keep up the excellent writing!

    *ahem*… I should be studying for my physics exam :P.

  12. Hey Timmy!

    Hope you rocked the physics exam!

    Ah PSY100! Interesting how much we learn about ourselves in psychology. Its interesting that humans have the self critical capacity to think about how they think – sounds a bit circular, but it is cool to build an identity, and then learn how we build an identity, and be conscious of that development.

    The nature and nurture debate has been a big one throughout psychology. What do you think impacts our identity more? Nature, or nuture?

  13. I have a friend with monster issues, who was actually brave enough to go talk to a doctor about it. The doctor suggested something we often overlook: in girls, monster-hood can also be caused, or made worse, by hormones. Thankfully, there are also treatments you can consider.
    …so just another thing to keep in mind.

  14. Hey Kassy,

    You make an excellent point that is very serious. I might joke around about “Monster Fariya” but real monster issues can be something that are very difficult to struggle with.

    It is more than just having a side of you that is a little irritable – it can be important, challenging issues that every student should feel they have resources to help address the problem. As I mentioned in my post, taming your monster might just require a friendly shoulder to cry on, or you might really need an expert monster-tamer. For U of T students, Counseling and Psychological Services are a really great resource.

    I really appreciate your comment because it brings the seriousness of the issue to the forefront. No one should ever feel overwhelmed by their monster. Taming one’s monster should be empowering, and needing help to do so is never a bad thing.

    Great comment Kassy! Thanks!


  15. FARIYA!

    This is exactly the kind of post I’d expect from you 🙂 And finally, it is a proper explanation for your close friends who have to put up with your nutty-ness.

    This is exactly what surviving studenthood is about – when you undergo stress and your monster side comes out, you can either panic or you can rejoice, and unleash the beast.

    I have seen your beast, and it is beautiful 🙂

    Challenges are part of life. Who you are when you face these challenges is not “your bad side” – or, it doesn’t have to be. The monster in you is still a wonderful part of you. We all struggle to survive our ‘studenthood’, and I think monster-taming is one of the best parts.

  16. “I have seen your beast, and it is beautiful” … AWW! Very sweet of you – and a beautiful line 🙂

    Thanks for the comment Surviving Studenthood. I love my monster, and I am about to use her in one of those “challenges” you talked about above. In an attempt to overcome those challenges, I must carefully release my monster so that I have her under control while making sure the other party knows she’s out and serious…

    And yes, FINALLY an explanation for my own Sasha Fierce 🙂

  17. Hey Everyone

    Thanks for the awesome comments! Have you noticed your monster has relaxed in the summer? Mine has still been raring with LSATs and Law School Applications and more!

    BUT! I’m looking forward to an awesome family vacation for two weeks, where I shall keep my monster distracted by all the sights, sounds, and smells, and hopefully guide it into the school year without a snitch. I suspect the first day of school will be a shock to my system, but I’m not going to think about it yet!

    Hope the summer is treating you all well!


    p.s. @ Timmy – My wonderful co-blogger Cynthia is inquiring whether you are from Ask-a-Student and in fact the same Timmy she has been communicating with! In the event you are, please make a comment on one of Cynthia’s posts, so she can email you personally, as Ask-a-student has changed, and she has lost touch. Cheers!

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