In high school I cared about grades to get into university. In university I care about grades to get into masters programs. It feels like this endless loop, where I am always associating my self-worth with the marks I receive.
Recently, while walking out of class where we had just been handed back assignment grades, I overheard some friends discussing what great marks they got. I didn’t feel too great, hearing that since I’d just received an awful grade. This got me thinking about how closely my happiness and sense of self were linked to the marks I earned in class. If it was a good grade, I would be happy but then continue on with my day, but if it was a bad grade, I would feel terrible and stew on it for weeks.
I have a friend who refuses to discuss grades and I respect her a lot for it. Why do we discuss marks in the first place? If we do well, it is usually because we are proud of ourselves, but I think this answer sums up the problem. The more proud you are of a good grade, the heavier you will be hit if you receive a low one, because you associate grades with your self-worth.
I think we are all guilty of reassuring others that bad grades do not make them failures, but fall short when it comes to how we view ourselves.
U of T is an academic institution so it is no surprise that its students are academically-minded. Students put a lot of pressure on themselves because they want to succeed (and there is nothing wrong with wanting that), but I think that when students focus so heavily on school, their perception-of-self becomes inseparable from their grades.
It is difficult to separate identity from grades, and I don’t even have any good advice on how to go about it, BUT I wanted to write this post as a reminder to everyone that:
- Your grades do not define you.
- You are important no matter what.
- Failure is necessary for growth.
- Being aware of how you perceive yourself and your grades will make you a happier person.
I know this is hard to put into practise, but from now on I am going to try and relate my identity to my own happiness and the joy that I can bring to others. I would encourage everyone else who struggles with grades and identity to try and do this too. Remember: take a few deep breaths to appreciate who you are in this moment, and also to please forgive my excessive use of Simpsons gifs.