With board exams cancelled for some sectionsand exams postponed for others – we’ve found ourselves stuck in a swirl of confusion again. After months of being constantly asked to keep revising – some are upset with the decision and some are happy. The uncertainty of what your performance is going to look like brings you back to the age old question – do marks really matter? We’ve had our relatives give us an abundance of unsolicited advice about this – about their own experiences and what they believe. So most of us might not know how we feel about marks – and that’s alright because in the course of this blog you will come to realise that there is no definite answer to that question – only you can answer it for yourself.
Most of us have heard that marks matter because they open doors for us – a better college, a better career, a better life and so on. So we equate them to steps towards being successful. If there existed such a simple recipe for success we’d all be successful (and quite frankly not very happy if we got it that easily). Which implies that there are so many elements to success and if we narrow our views and focus on just one, we might be shutting ourselves off to others.
The same goes for how we see ourselves – we’re a mix of our qualities and vices. The trait theory of personality suggests that our sense of self is composed of different traits – some are central traits, some cardinal (dominant and formed later in life) and some are secondary (relating to our attitudes and beliefs). All these traits together make up who we are as a person. And these might even change over time.
Some of these traits influence our personality more than others. So maybe you’re someone who values academic success and has been academically successful. The uncertainty of what your performance will be might feel like a threat. Instances in which you may have not done as well as you expected might feel devastating. But this threat or this failure does not erase the other traits you have – those are very much there. Even your trait for academic success is still there – it’s just a little shaky right now. You might find that in the future it will feel stable again.
On the flipside if you’re someone who isn’t academically oriented, living in a world that puts academic success on a pedestal – others’ opinions of your performance might make you question your sense of self. But again, those other traits exist. Marks might open doors for you but these are also doors you can open for yourself with the unique strengths that you possess.
So no matter where you lie on this “how much do I care about marks” spectrum – you will always have other qualities to fall back on or another chance to succeed or new qualities within yourself that you have not discovered yet. Looking at yourself as a mix of these traits helps you to not limit yourself and to recognize what resources you have when things go wrong.
If you are feeling especially anxious due to the Pandemic and your academic performance here are a few things you can try in the short and long term. Once you feel like you’re in the headspace to do so think about it – how do you see yourself – within and outside the confines of your academic life. No one has the answer to whether marks matter or not – not even researchers. So you’ve got to find that answer for yourself.
Sanjana has recently graduated with a degree in Psychology and is interning at The Thought Company to gain more knowledge and experience on her path to becoming a mental health professional. She is interested in understanding what makes people resilient in the face of adversity. She has a knack for cooking, origami and re-reading Khaled Hosseini books. Her favourite way to de-stress is watching a Pixar movie curled up next to her dogs. If she could be any Pixar character, she’d be Remy from Ratatouille!