Breathe—it’s just a piece of paper

A reminder you’re more than your exam grades

Image by: Herbert Wang
Your grades are not representative of your value.

If I had a dime for every time I’ve been stressed about school, upset that I wouldn’t achieve a higher grade, or surrounded by notes, textbooks, and lecture slides past 1 a.m., I’d be sitting somewhere on a yacht.

If you’ve ever experienced these situations, you’re probably familiar with the term ‘academic validation.’ Academic validation refers to equating academic success with your worth as an individual. While in ways, needing academic validation helps you to work harder and strive for success, it can also become a toxic cycle of prioritizing school over your mental health.

The fact is your grades don’t dictate your self-worth—nor should they. 

While working hard to achieve higher grades is commendable and can provide you with the validation you want, the problem comes when you don’t meet the expectation you’ve set for yourself.

When you attach your grades to your personal value, bad grades aren’t just bad grades. Instead, they’re personal imperfections. This can be detrimental to your mental well-being because instead of acknowledging all the external factors that could’ve resulted in the lower grade—relationship struggles, busy work weeks, physical sickness, etc.—you fault yourself.

Your intellectual capability and self-worth are not worth being torn apart because you can’t remember a psychology theory or engineering equation. At the end of the day, how well you test or how much you succeed in academia is not a complete visual of who you are.

There are so many characteristics that make up who you are—your kindness, compassion, passions, dislikes, and vices. Your academic grades do not discount any of these things, nor should they. Defining yourself solely on your grades is absurd and unrepresentative.

It’s essential to consider the bigger picture when regulating stress for the upcoming exam season. Take a step back and remember that at the end of the day, the grade you receive is just a number on a piece of paper.

Be proud of yourself for the time and effort you put into writing the exam. Commend yourself for getting as far as you have in your university life. Most importantly, remind yourself no matter the outcome of the exam, you are still as a whole, you are still valued, and you still have worth.

While studying for your exams and midterms are imperative, don’t overwork yourself. Pulling all-nighters to study will help no one. Forgetting to eat because you don’t feel like you have time in between memorizing concepts will only hurt you more.

Your sleep and eating habits are a part of your mental health. Delegate time off—time to sleep, time to eat, and time to take breaks. You can work hard in school and still prioritize yourself and your mental health. The two should not be mutually exclusive.

At the end of the day, your exam is just a piece of paper. It’s not worth all the stress, it’s not worth your mental health deteriorating, and it’s definitely not worth lowering your self-worth.

Go to bed, eat something, and breathe.


Academic Validation, Self-worth, Study, toxic, value

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