Good grades don’t equal self-worth

A few weeks back I was “The Cook’n Chaplain” for a 6 day emotional health course I’d organised for 24 students. And so while I was madly panicking in the kitchen making 50 hamburgers, everyone else were learning life changing things about making friends with their own mental health. As they chowed down on my Spankburgers™ (personal note: other people don’t love beetroot as much as I do) loads of them would tell me about how much pressure and anxiety they were feeling about their upcoming exams. “If I fail this paper, I don’t know what I’ll do! It’s just not worth thinking about…”

Sadly, most students I meet seem to believe the lie that their self worth is something they must constantly work hard to earn. Be it through good grades, securing a high paying job, or keeping their parents happy. Remove one of them and they feel their personal self worth begin to shrivel up. But as the famous monk Father Henri Nouwen put it “You are not what you do, you are not what you have, and you are not what others think of you. No! You are the beloved child of a loving creator.”

Now – you may not buy that last sentence, but regardless of your spiritual beliefs his big point is, you don’t need to earn your worth by passing some exam. Seriously. Because whether you feel it or not, you really are someone of huge worth. Without doing a thing.
Of course failure never feels very good. In the depths of disappointment it can feel like we’re nothing more than a sad garden slug being stood on by a giant academic boot, as we feel our hopes ooze out of us. But sometimes we just need to take a deep breath and get some perspective because despite what some people might imply – getting good grades really isn’t the meaning of life.
You are a person of infinite worth, and a D- or A+ means absolutely nothing on that score. So take a deep breath, remember you are so much more than the grades you get at Uni and remind yourself that in the bigger scheme of things (and if you allow it to), this experience will only make you stronger.

Rev Spanky Moore, Uni Chaplain
spanky.moore@canterbury.ac.nz

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