My Identity is not in my Grades

This semester has been really rough for me. Usually by now, which is about the halfway point in the semester, I know how I’m doing in all of my classes. But if you would have asked me Monday how I was doing and how my classes were going, my answers would have been, respectively, bad and I’ve no idea.

All of my classes this semester except for one have exactly two tests (or they say two midterms, which is weird) and then a final and a paper or some other small assignments that are worth very little of my grade. So my grade is staked basically on two tests and a final, which is a lot for me to worry about. Last week and this week I had round one of tests/research papers and it was stressful to say the least. I found out my results for my Statistics class – I got an A on my test and I was totally not expecting that. Then I also got my Environmental Science research paper back, on which I also got an A.

So I’m a little more relieved now because I have an idea of how I’m doing in two of my classes, but my others I don’t really know. And through this whole thing, I realized that I need encouragement to keep my going in my classes. If I see that I’m doing well in my classes, then it gives me the motivation to keep working hard in my classes. If I don’t get any feedback at all, it freaks me out. I couldn’t figure out why this semester was so hard for me and it was simply because I wasn’t getting any feedback on my grades so I didn’t know how I was doing. I was kind of giving up last week because I didn’t receive that encouragement that I needed.

I’ve also learned that, no matter what I say, I will never be satisfied with anything that is not an A. While that can be a good thing, it really stresses me out and whenever I’m not doing so well in a class, I beat myself up about it. For example, on my first Macroeconomics test we took, I got an 88%. I think we can all agree that that is a decent grade, even a good grade, but after my instructor handed the test back, I was really angry. At first I was angry at myself because I didn’t study enough or didn’t understand the concepts or care enough about the class. But then I started displacing that anger on my instructor because I thought he wasn’t teaching it clearly enough because, if he was, I would have gotten an A. And then I started beating myself up. I started thinking, “Economics is a basic class and you can’t even get an A. Everyone else in class understands it but you. Why can’t you even get an A in a basic introductory class?”

I’m not even happy when I receive a really high A. If I get an A-, I’m kind of upset. I realize that it’s a good grade, but I also tell myself, you can do a bit better next time. When I got a 100% on my research paper in Env. Sci, I was just like, “Good, that’s what I deserved.” That was my goal, and if I wouldn’t have hit my goal, I would’ve done exactly what I did on my Economics test, get mad and upset and beat myself up. While my good marks are encouraging, they don’t even make me happy. It’s just I work, work, work for that grade and when I get it, time to move on for that next test and work, work, work, work, work, and better get that A. It’s exhausting.

Even as I’m writing this post, I keep telling myself that I should be studying for one of my mid-terms that I have tomorrow. That if I don’t study enough, I’m not going to do well (a.k.a. not get an A). Since I have friends in there, it’s like I have to get an A to prove that… I don’t even know what I’m trying to prove! That I’m smart? It’s a Theater Appreciation class, at that, so it’s not like it really matters (unless of course you’re super into theater or are going into theater).

It’s all in my head, and it’s all absolutely ridiculous. Because I got that “unsatisfactory” grade on that test, I studied for four hours last night for a quiz that we had today in there. I just keep thinking, I can’t keep doing this, beating myself up and running myself until I’m so utterly exhausted that I just want to curl up in a ball and sleep.

I put so much pride in my grades that I almost make it my identity, that I have to be that girl that makes straight A’s. That’s who I am. And if I don’t even achieve that, what does that make me? But that’s so silly to stake my identity on a mark on a piece of paper. How can I let that just define me? If someone were to look at my grades and know nothing else about me, they might think, “Oh, she’s a good student.” And that’s it. They still don’t know anything about me.

So I just keep telling myself to take deep breaths and that my identity is not in my grades, my identity is in Christ. If I don’t get that A, I still have a Savior that loves me, friends and family that love me, and a boyfriend that loves me. So I just need to chill the heck out. Like, someone slap me and tell me to stop being so ridiculous!

9 thoughts on “My Identity is not in my Grades”

  1. You seem really smart. :) I worry about my grades too. Thats the bad part about college classes is that there aren’t necessarily that many assignments. Maybe ask for extra credit if you don’t do well.

    Are you worried you won’t get into grad school or something?
    It really doesn’t matter if you get straight A’s unless you want to go to a prestigious school. You don’t have to make straight A’s to be successful in work. This maybe kind of a low achieving attitude but if you don’t make straight A’s, it’s not the end of the world.

    And people who are smart doesn’t mean they’re the happiest.
    Sorry if this seems like a rant but let me know what you think. :)

    1. No, I don’t have any plans at the moment to continue after my undergrad. It’s just this irrational worry that I have that’s so ridiculous and doesn’t make sense. You’re totally right, it doesn’t matter if I don’t get straight A’s, but I for whatever reason can’t seem to truly believe that. :( Which is why I’m so stressed out!!

  2. It must be so stressful thinking like that! You should take it easy on yourself, it sounds to me like you get really good grades. Take pride in that and don’t worry so much :)

  3. You’re smart, and I think it’s a good thing that you want to get good grades, besides… it feels a lot better if when you have a A on your test results. But I can imagine that’s really stressful for yourself sometimes. Though it isn’t a bad thing if your test results are a bit lower ;)

  4. While you are being a “perfectionist”, stop for 30 seconds a day and breathe while looking around you :) nothing wrong with wanting to achieve the absolute best xx

    sidenote: I am back again :) xx

  5. Wow, two A’s! Good job :D
    I think it’s good that you’re starting to understand how irrational it is to depict your grades like that. Seriously, relax! Grades really aren’t everything! Even if you said you got a grade lower than an A, I would have not judge you any differently.

  6. Congrats on the A’s, but I understand where you’re coming from. I used to get angry and stress about my grades when I was in high school. I think like you I was trying to be a perfectionist and it was only hurting me. In the end, like you I refused to let grades define me especially if I knew I did my best. I think that is what counts in the end. You did your best.

  7. I totally beat myself up over how I do, and nothing is ever good enough… except that it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten straight A’s… But even when I DO get As or straight A-s it’s just… well I KNOW I could’ve been way less lazy and all that – I’m sure you know the internal speech all too well.

    The thing is though – you’ve got to stop! You’re doing great! I was freaking out last year over grades when I wasn’t getting feedback because law school entry depended on it. And now that I’m doing law as well… ha, feedback (or lack thereof) is freaking me out once again. I don’t think it’s something that will ever stop, but if you take a good amount of pride and confidence that you’re putting a lot of work in, I’m sure the positive vibes and effort will show through!

  8. Congrats on getting an A on your test and paper! I had classes in college that did the same thing, where your grade just depends on 2 or 3 tests. It definitely made it more stressful, knowing that screwing up one can really mess up your grade.

    I think it’s good to have high expectations for yourself, so that it motivates you to do well. You just have to make sure you don’t go overboard! I like how you put it; your grades really aren’t your identity. Good luck with all of your classes!

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