Academic achievement unjustly dictates self-worth

Academic achievement unjustly dictates self-worth

Illustration by Kaitlin Day

Lilly Ludwig, columnist

I’ll admit it, I had a breakdown the other day. I was walking up the stairs in my house, and I just stopped and sat down. I couldn’t make myself move. I was so stressed that I just wanted to sit there and forget about the AP exams I need to take, the many ACTs waiting for me, the college visits I’ll go on and, oh yeah, maintaining good grades in the classes I’m currently taking. I just wanted to sit on the stairs until all that stuff went away.

I eventually realized that I didn’t need to feel that way if I didn’t want to. I mean, I knew I’d still have to do it eventually, but I realized that it doesn’t need to be this stressful. Most people suffer from this toxic relationship with school, at least some of the time, because we live in a community that puts value on test scores and GPAs. But I have some news, and this may be shocking for some, so get ready: your self worth is not defined by a single institution.

A lot of this toxicity comes from the emotional relationship students have with school. Because authority says that the students that score at a certain level are “good” and the students that don’t score at that level are “bad”, students begin to label themselves this way too. This allows students to let their own emotional validation depend on school, which obviously isn’t healthy.

How one performs in school should be a reflection of their personal growth, and seeing as all people grow at different rates, there’s really no such thing as doing “well” or “poorly” in school. However, because students become dependent on feeling validated through their performance in school, they become stressed and overwhelmed when they can’t meet the standards that have been set for them.

This devalues the actual educational process and turns our time at school into a game of “point-grabbing to get the A”. It takes away the learning, which is kind of the whole point of going to school in the first place.

Educational liberation comes when students aren’t afraid that their reputation is going to be determined by how they perform on certain tests. When students aren’t afraid of being wrong, learning has no negative power over them.

This message goes beyond eliminating the emotional relationship with school that so many students have. I propose that none of it matters. ACT, GPA, SAT—these things hardly ever define your intelligence; they define how many bubbles you filled in that were correct, and they are essentially meaningless when you consider what actually fills your heart with joy and love. Yes, they are a fact of life, but they are by no means an important part. They are just a fact—an emotionless one, and they have no power over how anyone should feel about themselves.

It’s important for students, as individuals, to evaluate how much of an impact they want this system to have on their life. Because if they don’t, the system itself will tell them to believe that it’s the only thing that matters. That’s how we get students that cry because they failed a test instead of being curious enough to ask how they can do better the next time.

South, your self-worth is so much more than a grade. Your identity is who you love, the way you laugh, your favorite sounds and entirely defined by you.