Looking beyond your grades

Charlie Lahud-Zahner

Dangers of a statistically defining self-worth


During my freshman year at Sehome High School, my GPA was fairly low. If I remember correctly, it was a 1. Just 1.

The only classes that I went to were yoga and racquet sports, two A’s that saved me from an embarrassing 0.

I wanted to think that I wasn’t stupid, but the school system’s primary indicator of intelligence said otherwise, so I thought little of myself.

Now I am here. After getting rejected to every other university I applied to, I recovered from the depression that was high school, I get good grades and my self-esteem has correspondingly improved.

I feel better when I get better grades.

However, isn’t solely basing self-esteem off of letter grades a flawed and fragile source of pride or shame?

At its most basic, self-esteem includes how we evaluate our ability to perform tasks (competence vs. incompetence) as well as an overall attitude towards oneself.

In the American education setting, academic achievements inspire high self-esteem while academic failure usually inspires overarching negative thoughts about oneself, or negative thoughts that can be deflected outwards toward an instructor or parent.

To gain self-esteem solely from a good letter grade is a shaky basket to put all your eggs in.

As we enter into winter quarter, there is the undeniable chance that things can fall apart and you will not get the grade that you feel you deserve.

As much as we can organize and control our quarter, personal crises do not follow the academic calendar.

When this happens, when you don’t get an A, it is important to understand that our value is more than a subjective symbol at the end of the quarter.

You are more than an uppercase letter at the end of 10 weeks.

Similarly, if you were largely inattentive, lazy or unorganized for the better part of a quarter, this does not necessarily reflect on your entire personhood.

A course grade is not a personal rating; a D or an F does not mean that you are the embodiment of failure. A C does not indicate your inherent mediocrity and general lameness.

I can attest to this.

After consistently being on the Dean’s List, flaunting it to my parents and thinking of myself as the smartest thing since sliced bread, my parents divorced.

It wasn’t sudden, or unexpected, but it was enough to put me off track. I didn’t go to class, I didn’t turn in assignments; I stopped. I got grades that I thought were beneath me.

I thought that I was exposed, that I was actually an idiot impersonating a smart student.
I thought that a lower GPA illustrated a diminished existence. This is, of course, a lie.

There are many factors that we should take into account when considering self-esteem.
GPA is merely an indicator of your academic performance in a relatively short time period.

Consider how you treat other people, consider your resilience, your humor, your smile, think about the way that you make other people smile. If you believe in God, consider how you are made in his image.

I am not entirely sure what is the most influential source of the lie, the farce that self-worth is attached to a letter grade.

Maybe it was the parents who offered cash incentives for an A, maybe it was the parents who punished their children for an F or maybe it was the TV we watched.

Advertisements, the ugly face of enthusiastic capitalism, saying that you are what you buy.

Now and again, people say that you are what you eat.

Our self-image must have a diverse portfolio so that if our grades take a hit, we are able to have other sources of personal worth to draw upon.

Do your best, forget the rest and know that you are more than your grades.