Laylaa Motala discusses how societal pressure regarding gender roles eventually led her to being competitive in her studies. She also tells of her journey of turning that into something positive.
As a child, my parents never limited me to the “things girls should do”. I could climb trees, change tyres and use heavy duty power tools, on countless occasions nearly losing my fingers in the process. However, as I grew up, I was increasingly faced with society’s opinions around gender roles. From then on, being a young feminist, I made it my mission to do everything that boys did. As a result, I became competitive from a young age and felt compelled to be the best at everything I did. Having entered a largely male-dominated field like engineering, I feel a constant need to prove my capabilities as a woman.
This competitive nature filtered into my studies – more specifically mathematics – and as a result I’ve always been inclined to study on my own. It helps me learn better and understand concepts faster without any interruptions. With group study, I also tend to get distracted and end up conversing more than studying. I believe that studying on my own rather than in a group has enabled me to develop important life skills like work-scheduling, prioritising and self-motivation. When I entered university, I was placed in an environment where I was not unique in terms of my academic abilities. This made it difficult for me to identify a group of people to use as a target for my competitiveness.
I soon realised that I was so consumed by the idea of competition that I lost sight of the reason I was trying to be the best at certain things. Over the last few months, I’ve tried to work on my shortcomings and develop a better and healthier environment for me to compete in. I found that when I isolate myself and study on my own it becomes easier for me to establish a therapeutic environment in which I focus on my own academic achievement – specifically mathematics – and how I can improve myself.
Second Year Engineering Student,