Romanticizing bad habits only makes them worse

Internalizing the idea that sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, and substance abuse is normal at university is a form of self-harm

There are better ways to be a student than what is normalized in the media. Illustration by Reslus/The Peak

By: Madeleine Chan, Staff Writer

Ah yes, the stereotypical university student: eating ramen from the bag, macaroni and cheese from the box, pulling all-nighters every night, drinking ‘till dawn, glorifying sadness. Ain’t it the life? No, it’s not. Far from it actually. In fact, the potential long-term consequences like chronic disease show that we shouldn’t be positioning this “lifestyle” as anything but a detriment to our well-being. 

As a kid, staying up late was always the “cool” thing to do. It was an exclusive privilege that only adults and older kids got to have. Now, having multiple issues with sleep and focus, it’s not so cool. Sure, I get a laugh from calling it “sleepy bitch disease,” but that doesn’t mean I should.

Things like going to bed late, eating irregularly, and excessive drinking are just a few bad university habits I can name. These types of bad habits shouldn’t be idealized as normal because of their potential long-term effects. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, heavy drinking amongst university students can lead to “significant cognitive, structural and functional brain changes” on top of “potential health issues such as liver disease or cancer.” Other studies show that bad eating habits in university can “persist throughout adulthood” — even something as simple as skipping breakfast could have negative consequences. Plus, low-quality sleep increases the risk of mental health issues and can hinder biological development.

This concept of the university student who prioritizes the demands of school or social life over well-being is quite frankly, wack. For example, the notion that an all-nighter is necessary in university to succeed is so out of line with what our bodies and minds actually need to thrive in school. Social and entertainment media have led students to believe that this is how they should behave. By glamourising these habits with moody vibes, baggy eyes, and coffee grinds, students also push the idea that these things are actually desired. However, they really should not be if the consequences are mental and physical degradation.

University students should instead be idealizing good habits, like getting adequate sleep, confronting unpleasant emotions, and eating what their bodies need, when they need it. By getting in the habit of seeing good habits as good, students focus on the positives of well-being rather than the “glory” of harmful habits. Imagine rewarding yourself with actual positivity instead of highlighting the negatives of a destructive routine.

I’m not trying to be your parent and chastise you for not going to bed on time, but thinking that these bad habits are somehow ideal is actually far from it. Positioning suffering as an aesthetic only keeps it from being resolved, making it an internal battle. It also invalidates the fight against these bad habits and keeps people in a state of struggle by making them a part of one’s personality, vocabulary, and just the overall self. Brushing off any confrontation of this inner conflict with nonchalance (like I often do with a vague gesture and a noncommittal noise) only serves to avoid addressing this inner conflict by dismissing potential resolution. It’s okay to laugh at yourself, but something as important as the continued disfunction of your life isn’t funny. We can’t romanticize avoiding reality, no matter how hard it is.