Putting myself above the grade

Self-worth shouldn’t be put into grades in school


For as long as I can remember, my self-worth has been tied to my academic success. As long as I could get straight A’s, I was good. But, anything less than that, I felt like a failure.

Luckily, school was easy enough for me that I never felt like I was doing poorly. That changed when I got to middle school. 

When I got there, I was put in classes that were at my actual level, and with that came an actual academic challenge. Eventually, I got my first “B.” It was a small slip but nothing too bad. Then came my first “C.” I was a little mad at myself for letting myself slip that low, but I was determined to not let it happen again. But, then came my first ever “F.” I was mortified. 

I still remember that feeling: An endless pit in my stomach that made me want to curl up and disappear. To this day, I still feel that same pit when I earn a low score. 

Unfortunately, this is far from uncommon with teenagers. According to Slate, 80% of student’s self-worth is tied to their grades. That number is astounding. Nobody should have their self-worth tied to their academic “success” as determined by an almost 250 year old grading system.

But, for me at least, not having my self-esteem tied to my grades is easier said than done. It’s a work in progress, and some days are better than others. Some days I couldn’t care less what my grade in my math class is. But other days, I think that if I don’t score high enough on the upcoming math test, then I’m a failure to my teachers, my parents and anyone who ever believed in me.

But, with continuous support from the people around me, I’ve gotten better. My girlfriend, Gretchen, is always my biggest supporter through success, and even more so, through my failures. Teachers have also been a huge source of encouragement throughout my educational career. Teachers like my AP Biology teacher Amanda Schnepp who once told the class “You know what they call the person who graduates at the bottom of the class in medical school? Doctor.” She always reassures us that our grades don’t define us as students, and especially doesn’t define us as people.

Even though bad days do happen, over time, there’s bound to be more good days than bad. I’m learning to accept myself for who I am as a person, and not who I am as a student. I’m also learning to accept that perfection is only something that can be reached for, and can never actually be achieved. 

Someday I hope that my self-worth will be completely independent from my grades now, and my grades in the future, and I hope the same for anyone else struggling the same way.