Every student’s worst fear: receiving mail the day after school ends and seeing that long-dreaded letter, your report card. Many of us fear this moment because of the uncertainty that lies beneath the mysterious envelope. What will my parents think of me? Was I smart enough this year? Hopefully, I didn’t disappoint anyone.


As a high school junior, I know that I’ve struggled with this feeling since my freshman year. But why? Why do we let a minuscule letter on paper define who we are? Is achieving perfect scores really worth the long nights studying, mental breakdowns, and toxic competition with our peers? Well, I’m here to reassure you that no, it is most definitely not. 


Although everyone should strive to be their best selves in school, we should not allow it to take over our own well-being. We should never let a bad grade tear down our self-worth. Bad grades do not equal failure. 


The Psychology Behind Self-worth

Let’s begin by defining self-worth. It is, “a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect.” According to the self-worth theory, we define our self-worth by evaluating our performance in activities we deem as valuable (Positive Psychology). These can be things like appearance, popularity, and net worth. In the case of many students, the predominant factor used to measure success is our grades; hence why we become distraught when faced with a bad score. 


How can we improve self-worth?

I understand it can be difficult to reassemble ourselves to a more positive mindset, but I hope to give everyone a few helpful tips that I have been using to help improve my self-worth. 


Self-appreciation. When faced with a not-so-good test score, some of us may fall into a deep state of negative emotion. This can be harmful to our mental health, generating a feeling of self-depreciation. However, what I like to do to combat this negativity is to take a step back and reflect on how much I already accomplished in my life so far. 

This can look a little bit like this: 

  • I made the effort to study for the exam, I’m proud of myself already for doing that! 
  • It’s totally okay that I didn’t do my best on the quiz, I made the soccer team today! 

By focusing on the positive in life, one can realize their true worth beyond just their grades, learn how much progress they’ve made since day one, and take pride in the amazing person they’ve grown into. Coming from someone who used to cry over their calculus grade every week, I can assure you that this method of thinking has improved my resilience significantly.


Mindfulness. Often, when it comes to our grades, we tend to overthink about the future by revolving our minds around rigorously studying, receiving high marks, and being accepted into a prestigious college. By practicing mindfulness, we can work to diminish these stressors and take time to focus on the present. According to Mindful, mindfulness is defined as, “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” In fact, everyone is naturally born with the ability to be mindful, making it a sufficient way to distance yourself from school stress. 

You can practice mindfulness by meditating:

  1. Sit down in a comfortable position and in a calm place. 
  2. Feel your breath and let loose of any tensions.
  3. Empty your mind of any stressful thoughts and focus on the present moment.
  4. If your mind wanders, return attention to your breath.

When meditating, we take a break from academic pressures, tackle negative thoughts, and realize what’s truly valuable to us. We can take time to acknowledge our presence in the world; our health, qualities, and privileges. By bringing ourselves to peace through meditation, we can learn to appreciate our existence, improving self-love and self-worth. 


This is your sign to take a break, look back on how much you’ve already achieved, and be proud of your accomplishments. I know high school is tough and good grades are often a large pressure for us teens, but I believe in you. You are far more worthy than any grade given to you by a teacher, someone who might not even know you that well! You are resilient, appreciated, and talented. We can all go through this journey together; let’s all just promise to maintain our self-worth in the process. So, go ahead and tell yourself: “I am greater than my grades”.


-Taylor, California

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