I stared at my screen in disbelief, the flashing red light mocking me, only ceasing when I finally forced myself to shut my laptop. I couldn’t believe I had done so poorly on this online quiz – especially after the stacks of flashcards memorized, the half-a-dozen highlighters dried up, and the textbook pages oh so meticulously examined.
I began thinking about the effects this one quiz grade would have on my GPA for the rest of my college career. My thoughts raced uncontrollably. I convinced myself that somewhere down the road my children would have to deal with the consequences of my lack of knowledge on wind patterns (my brain tends to jump to worst-case scenarios in times of pressure).
My emotions resembled the computer resting in my lap; system overheating and battery running dangerously low.
I went from looking for anyone to blame (my professor, the education system, the government) to feeling disappointed only in myself; thinking of ways I could have possibly studied harder.
But it didn’t matter why I didn’t do well on the quiz. The truth was that I studied, I tried, but I failed. I know the amount of effort I put into preparing for that quiz and I know I learned a few fun facts about clouds in the process of it. Yet, I pushed all of that to the back of my mind and focused solely on that measly number in the grade book.
And how could I not be so concerned with that little percentage? The syllabus outlines how much of my grade it makes up, the online homework program notifies me of my score, and I know it will affect my GPA upon graduation.
Even from elementary school, we are all conditioned to care (no, obsess) about our grades. We are taught how to work well under timed conditions in order to get good grades on tests, which then give teachers good performance grades.
Of course, grades are important and should not simply be tossed to the curb. But too often our view of grades crosses the line between measuring academic performance to becoming sole indicators of self worth – and that is where the problem lies.
We are not defined by our grades.
A certain decimal out of the number 4, or a few missed questions in a class you are required to take do not limit your intellectual capacity.
Grades are entirely relative too. An 84% in high school in certain states is considered a C, but the college grading scale in other states calls that same 84% a B. So why do we let something that varies so heavily across time and space determine our value?
Why do we let any numbers determine our value?
Age, statistics, weight, followers on social media – it seems numbers are assigned to just about every aspect of our lives. And it’s hard not to let them get to us when we are so often reminded of their importance.
But we have to stop letting them define us. Keyword: “letting” them define us.
While it might be difficult, we can control our perspective. We have the power to control how numbers affect us and what significance they do (or do not) hold. We have the power to decide that nothing will determine our self-worth without our consent.
You are not a statistic.
You are not a measurement on a scale.
You are not a percentage.
The fact of the matter is that you are quite simply and quite extraordinarily – you; a remarkably deep human being and intricately designed individual – and no number will ever change that.
Image via Celina Timmerman