No matter what society tries to tell you today, you are NOT a number. A number does not define you. I don’t care what your GPA is, your weight is, your salary is, etc. because that’s not what’s important.
I have struggled with this concept for pretty much my whole life. I was determined that my grades had to be perfect. Always high “A’s”. If not, then I didn’t study enough, wasn’t smart enough, etc. and “B’s” were unthinkable. That was like failing for me. It’s not that I was going around bragging about it all either. Instead, I always kept my grades quiet to everyone around me. I hated when teachers would say my grade to the class or when other students would make comments about me probably being the valedictorian (which I’m not). I knew that other students would hate me for that and I most definitely didn’t want to stand out for it.
I think it started when I was in 1st grade… we did the test to see which kids were gifted. Well, a lot of my friends got gifted, but I didn’t and it crushed me. Why? I did get a little bit of a lower score for vocabulary, but it mostly was because I didn’t talk much apparently. I’m sorry, but it was scary being brought into a room with a person I don’t know and that one test had way too much power. I still remember that and my family knows not to mention it unless they want to hear a 2-hour rant—and it was over 10 years ago…
Anyway, I always thought I was a lot stupider than the other kids. Ever since then, I wanted to prove that I was smart too, mostly to myself I think. Throughout elementary school, I kept being one of the few that got put in all the gifted classes even though I wasn’t gifted. In middle school though, the rules didn’t allow me to be in those classes anymore. All my friends were in the advanced classes and I was alone in the other classes. I got used to my higher scores then and especially not having to put in much work for it.
In high school though, the classes got harder. AP classes meant more work. My school has pretty much all of the AP classes and I was set on getting valedictorian, so that meant taking as many as I could. Plus I have a class of over 500 kids, so I would have to go above and beyond. Then, I (jokingly, but also not…) planned to tell my speech about how an un-gifted kid like me can achieve their dreams of becoming valedictorian and can be smart just like the gifted kids. The only problem was that there were teachers who only gave out 3-5 “A’s” for all of their 150+ students and they weren’t in my strongest subjects either… I started getting some “B’s.” I know that doesn’t sound bad and may sound like I’m just bragging or whatever, but I’m not meaning to come across that way at all. I just want to show my thought processes as they caused me to have anxiety attacks before, during, and/or after tests and I also threw up before almost every test. I would get mad at myself for any little mistake I made on a test. I would get no sleep from studying all night because if I wasn’t getting the perfect score, then I could have studied more. Not only that, but I was involved in 3 sports at the same time as well. I would constantly be sleep deprived and sick from a suppressed immune system and became depressed to the point of hurting myself for relief. I cried almost every night wondering how other people were doing it. However, I always put on a happy face and never let anyone know what was really going on.
Luckily though, one of my teachers saw through my bluff and she helped me to realize that there’s more to life than that. This was a huge turning point and began my journey of recovery. Sure, I had other problems besides being obsessed about grades, but that was a huge thing at the moment that was holding me back. I checked my grades on the website every five minutes! People would comment on it and I wouldn’t even realize I was logging back in, so I blocked it from my phone for a little bit. I can’t tell you how many times I still tried to get on that website. Having OCD probably didn’t help with any of that either…
Anyway, it took me awhile, but I finally came to understand that I’m not a number. It sucks that society encourages that, especially in a large and competitive high school like mine, but we’re all so much more than that. It’s not worth it. I work at a tutoring center and have had kids even in elementary school that cry because they feel stupid for not getting “perfect” grades. Sure I was getting good grades and everything, but I was almost killing myself to do it. That’s another thing I want to raise awareness to… People usually think I have it all together because I’m involved in sports and have “good” grades and everything, but that wasn’t the case. Mental illnesses don’t discriminate and they manifest in many ways. What’s appearing on the outside doesn’t always reflect what’s on the inside.
So am I going to be valedictorian? Nope. Will I even be in the top 20? Probably not. But guess what? That’s okay. I’m going into my senior year of high school and I want to enjoy it while I can. If that means I don’t get all A’s and take some lower-level classes, so be it. My mental health is my priority. Am I gifted? No, but who cares? In the grand scheme of life, nobody after high school is going to ask, “Were you gifted?” or “What was your grade in your AP World History class in 10th grade?” Also, chances are, if you do mention that you were valedictorian in your high school many years down the road, it’s likely that you’ll receive some eye rolls. So what’s the point in going through all the pain just for a label?
I’m not saying at all that it’s bad to get good grades or it’s bad to get bad grades. I’m just saying that we, as creations of God, are much more than that. Our life purpose may or may not be involving Calculus and either way, that’s who you are and that’s perfectly okay. Trying to be someone who we are not isn’t worth all the pain. We have a purpose in life that’s greater than our grades. That’s greater than the number listed on our transcript. The things that do matter are qualities—the things about you as a person. Being loved, brave, strong, kind, caring, etc. is much more important than being considered the top of your class. The bad thing is, GPA doesn’t measure those qualities. It sucks, but that’s just the way it is and we just have to accept that.
Just remember who you truly are when society says otherwise and know in your heart what truly matters. You are NOT just a number ❤