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Anxiety Made Me Realize My Worth Isn't Measured by My Grades

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I’ve always been known as a “high achiever.” People expect me to consistently get amazing grades and I came to expect that of myself too.

Naturally then, people expressed concern when my grades began to drop and I was taking part in more activities outside of lessons. However, what they didn’t realize was the relationship between the two did not follow the pattern they thought. My grades were not dropping because I was doing more outside of school. I was doing more outside of school because my grades were dropping. The fear of failure had become so great I was unable to review for exams. It became an achievement if I managed to sit in the exam hall for the duration of the paper.

For too long I had largely based my self-worth on percentages and letters of the alphabet. So as my anxiety increased, the percentages and letters went down and so did my sense of value. Except this seemed to decrease at a much greater rate.

What was I worth if I was failing in school?

I’ll let everyone down.

I’m a failure because I can’t get the highest grades possible.

There wasn’t much point in trying to make people proud, because I wasn’t going to manage it, no matter how hard I tried.

But then I made someone laugh. I comforted a friend during a hard time. I played games with children where I volunteer and saw their smiles. I said nice things and made people feel good about themselves. I offered to help someone. And through this, I found a way to make a difference that didn’t involve numbers.

So I began to do it more. I learned the more extracurriculars I do, the more I help people and the more I am able to plan things I enjoy, the better I feel about myself.

Through these activities, I learned I thrive more on smiles than I do on percentages. That a grade, no matter how high, can never compare to the feeling when someone tells you that you have made a difference in their life. For far too long, I believed I was a success if I came out on top of the class, but was failure otherwise. I started to believe, despite the protests of others, unless I was perfect, I wasn’t good enough. If my score wasn’t 100 percent, I had failed and deserved to feel bad. I deserved happiness only if I scored highly enough.

The thing is, this turned me into someone I am not. I became competitive, jealous, bitter and had to do better than others.

Not anymore.

Now, I view myself as a person. An imperfect, clumsy, dorky person who gets things wrong sometimes. And not only am I OK with that, but I kind of like it. I enjoy spreading happiness and making people feel good, even if it comes from accidentally falling over every once in a while. I enjoy showing people how amazing they are and how they can do anything they put their minds to.

I am still trying with school work, of course, but it no longer consumes me. It is no longer the biggest measure of my worth.

So when it seems like I’m slacking with school work or that I seem to be having “too much fun,” I am still, in fact, learning. The only difference is, I’m learning something that should be taught far more in school. I’m learning good or bad grades do not equal a good or bad person. I’m learning I can value myself regardless of a score on a test.

I’m learning I am me, and that is pretty great.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure.

Originally published: March 1, 2017
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