Problematic grade comparisons

Mackenzie Bill, asst.opinions editor

I squeezed my eyes shut as a wave of frustration swept over me.

My teacher had just passed back a math test, and immediately after seeing my score, I glanced at the scores of the people around me. I saw some high B’s and A’s, and quite frankly, I became upset with myself.

Why am I so bad at math? I thought. Look at how well everyone else did.

This was another moment of many in my high school experience in which I compared myself to my peers.

Ten percent of our thoughts are consumed by comparisons to other people, Psychology Today said. Comparing ourselves to others is not uncommon, it’s a part of our daily life.

I have been comparing myself to my friends and people in my classes since middle school. I remember in my sixth grade Social Studies class when my teacher passed back a practice test. My friend showed me her grade and she got a score half a point better than mine. I was crushed. Already, as an 11-year-old girl, I was comparing myself to someone else.

Comparing myself to others’ academic accomplishments became an unhealthy habit that continued into my first couple years of high school. My emotions depended on the person next to me. If I did better, I would feel elated. By comparing myself to others, not only would I feel like my grades were inadequate, but it felt like I wasn’t good enough as a person.

When I would compare myself, I would create a false version of who I thought I should be: a straight “A” student in all honors with outstanding scores on every assignment. But that isn’t my reality. And that is okay. These types of academic comparisons were nonstop and made it feel like I was going to pop from the pressure I was placing on myself; until, suddenly, I got a well-needed break from the constant comparison.

Last year, when everything was online, the opportunity to compare grades and academic accomplishments with peers was reduced. After all, there wasn’t the chance to peek at the grade my neighbor got or complain about grades to a friend passing by me in the hall- way.

Because of that, I found myself having less anxiety surrounding grades. I would take a test, check my grade, and that was it. I com- pared myself less to others, and more to where I was at in my personal academic journey.

After comparison stopped ruling my life, I felt more confident in myself.

I understood that the validation that I craved for myself was a catalyst for my academic comparison.

I became more proud of myself because I was able to see my progress and not automatically look at someone else’s academic achievement.

When school went back to all in-person this year, I also learned to give myself patience with my academics as the transition from all online to all in person was nothing short of challenging. This patience for myself as well as less of a motivation to compare myself to others truly helped the validation I seeked come from myself.

I know how tempting it is to want to com- pare yourself. Most of us have been com- paring our grades to our peers since middle school. But know that the path you are on is not the same as the person next to you. You don’t need to get the same grades or have the same achievements as them to still be proud of and find validation in yourself.