I’ve always pushed myself in school.
I wouldn’t allow myself to get anything below an “A” on my assignments.
People always say that “grades don’t define who you are,” but that is far from the truth. We equate good grades with a successful life.
It’s drilled into students’ brains from a young age.
In middle school, I was put on track for advanced courses, and ever since then, I’ve felt the pressure to keep my grades at an exceptional level.
At the end of eighth grade, I was invited to join the National Junior Honor Society. Only a select amount of students with high GPAs were asked to join. I had to keep up my grades all throughout high school to stay in this student organization, and eventually be inducted into the National Honor Society.
On top of the stress of maintaining my grades to remain in the society, I was a student leader in multiple extracurriculars and I balanced an accelerated track of classes.
All of the stress built up. I had my first major breakdown junior year.
I was taking all AP classes, some college-level classes and studying for the SAT. I’ve never been more stressed than I was then.
There would be nights when I would cry for hours because I was so wrapped up in getting “A’s” on papers and getting a good grade on my SAT so I could get into college.
At the time, nothing else mattered to me.
“Grades don’t define who you are.”
What a lie. Everything is based on grades.
Many students are forced to believe that if you don’t do well on the SAT, you won’t get into college. If you don't get “A’s” on every assignment, you won’t get into college.
If you aren’t in clubs or sports to boost your resumé, you won’t get into college.
That is what is ingrained in students’ heads.
When can I just live my life without having to be constantly bombarded with this idea that if I’m not scoring 100%, I’m not doing enough?
I have dealt with basing my worth on academic validation for as long as I can remember. If I didn’t get an “A,” I would be devastated. I would beat myself up over a grade.
In high school, I vividly remember getting an 80% on an AP biology test and thinking that I would never come back from that.
I was upset over something that meant nothing in the real world. Something that didn’t even matter.
But at that moment, I thought that bad grades had the power to ruin my entire future.
Once you get into college, it’s the same game — just a different ending. Only this time, you’re pushed to make sure you get a good job when you graduate instead of an acceptance letter from a good college.
Academic stress is never-ending.
Recently, I’ve been trying to work on not letting grades define who I am.
Through a lot of self-reflection, I’ve internalized the belief that I’m worth more than a number on a piece of paper.
Even though I’ve gotten much better, it would be a lie if I said I didn’t still have feelings of humiliation and disappointment when I don’t get an “A” on an assignment, or when I get a “B” in a class.
This need to do the best doesn’t go away all at once.
I need to constantly remind myself that I am doing enough.
But I know that life will go on. I’ve gotten to where I am today without being perfect.
The big lesson that I’ve learned in the last eight years of needing academic validation is that if you get a “bad” grade, it isn’t the end of the world.
There is always an opportunity to restart and learn for the next time.
Be forgiving of yourself. No one is perfect.
Victoria Hill is an assistant news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org