My C’s Don’t Define Me


Receiving grades at the end of the semester can mean many things. Some students view it as a physical representation of their hard work and feel proud. Others check the mailbox every day to make sure they can hide the document from their parents.

In my case, for the past seven semesters of high school, getting my report card often meant a day or two of feeling disappointed in myself.

At the beginning of high school, I would cry if I opened my report card and saw another C in math or science. I would say to myself, “Why can’t you just get it?”

Self-deprecating thoughts filled my head:

“You could’ve done so much better this semester if you had worked harder!”

“Everyone else seems to get it, why don’t you?”

“You’re not going to be able to get into a good college.”

“Your mom is going to be so disappointed in you.”

I felt like my grades meant I wasn’t good enough as a person. My grades diminished my self-esteem. If I bombed a test or quiz, those negative thoughts would come rushing in, and I would have full-blown breakdowns over a low grade.

Now, in my final semester of high school, I can see that this was not a healthy way to go about caring about my performance. I knew that my teachers and others saw me as more than just my grades, yet I just couldn’t see myself that way. I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only student who has felt this way.

Eastside is challenging – the courses are difficult and you are expected to do your best work and advocate for yourself. At an academically difficult school, of course students are going to be consumed by grades and classroom performance. School also fills the majority of our time – from 8:30 to 5, Monday through Friday! With so many hours devoted to school, we want to do well, not only to make others proud but to make ourselves proud.

In January when I got my report card for the first semester, I was initially upset, as usual. But instead of spending the next two days in a bad mood, I found myself taking a step back. I tried a new approach: “Well, maybe I should look at what I did well in?”

Maybe I was just so tired of beating myself up over things that were no longer in my control. Maybe all the times my friends gave me the “grades don’t define you” speech had finally sunk in. Whatever it was, I decided to stop hating myself over some Cs. I had accomplished way too much in the first semester to hate my work as a whole.

I applied to colleges all semester – I even got into a few! I had done well on both major SRI papers. I earned an A in my college English class. Actually, I was doing well, and it was about time I started to accept that. With that mindset, I realized I had a lot more reasons to feel proud than disappointed.

I encourage Eastside students to reflect on all the good they have done. Your teachers acknowledge your efforts, and we should pat ourselves on the backs one in a while, too. I’m not the first to say it, and it’s true – your grades do not define who you are as a person, a bad mark on a test doesn’t make you dumb. Keep working hard, and treasure your victories. Put away the “you’re no good” and cheer yourself on with a “keep up the good work!”