Dear Liza: How Do I Stop Being So Harsh On Myself In School?

Dear Liza,
I'm that kid who has a 3.9+ GPA, and everyone knows it and makes such a big deal out of it. I've been that kid for so long it's become my identity - how do I stop myself from being so harsh on myself when I don't do so well in class?
Sad Overachiever

Dear Sad Overachiever,

Please don't be sad! I'm sorry that people make sure a big deal out of your GPA, because you deserve to be proud of such an achievement. But it can be hard to acknowledge when you're getting such a response. You don't say whether people respond positively or negatively, but either way your GPA is your business. 

You're so much more than this number, you know that right? I get that when we've been something for so long it can be really hard to let go of an identity, but it really is just a number. The reasons behind that number, though, are all you.

Hard work, dedication, motivation, intelligence: all these are qualities that I'm sure you have, to have achieved so much. But even when your GPA isn't at that level, or when you get a bad grade on a test, or any number of situations where you don't do as well as you're used to, that's still true. You're still an incredible bundle of talent, even when the digit that the world stamps on you based upon some arbitrary grading system isn't up to your standard. Because that's the wonderful thing about us humans, we can't be squeezed into neat little labels, no matter how hard society tries.

So yes, you might be an overachiever. You might even be a sad overachiever, if you're sat there wishing people would quieten down about this little academic number. But you are also creativity and courage, spirit and humour and kindness and compassion, and any number of other characteristics.  

And I'd love for you to think about what you learned in these classes, whether you got an A or a B or (gasp) a C. Was it thought provoking? Awe inspiring? Did it change the way you see the world? Some of my lowest grades have come in classes where I've worked the hardest, and my highest have come from ones where I barely paid attention. From what I've experienced, grades are based so heavily on one professor or teacher's decision, or by how we do on one day. That doesn't tell me much about someone. But the way their eyes light up when they demonstrate the data set they spent hours crafting, now that says a lot.

Please don't be harsh on yourself, whatever your transcript says. You are still a stunning human being with passion and potential. Focus on building your knowledge and skill set, and the grades will be what they will be.