The end of the semester and the completion of finals can bring up a mix of emotions. On one hand, it is both exciting and relieving to know that classes will not be in session for another 2-3 weeks and that you will (hopefully) have some time to relax that you didn’t have during the semester. On the other hand, it can be difficult to go into break following an exam or two that didn’t go well. It’s all too easy to beat yourself up over this and allow your overthinking to run rampant. This is something that I have experienced many times in my college career, and I know I am not alone in allowing thoughts like “I will not get into graduate school” or “I’m not cut out for my dream job” to dominate my mind. Because I know how prevalent and how damaging this thinking can be, I wanted to briefly address it head on so that if you also struggle with this, you can hopefully seek some reassurance here.
Here is your reminder from me to you: you are NOT defined by your grades. Your grades are supposed to measure how much you learned in a course and how good of a student you are, yes, but there are so many unseen, outside factors that go into it. Are you typically a good test taker? What else was going on in your life in the months or weeks prior to the exam? Did you have sufficient resources to study? Did you get a good night’s sleep and have an adequate breakfast beforehand? All these factors and more are quite often overlooked and not taken into consideration when assessing what a grade actually reflects. Remind yourself that you did the best you could under your individual circumstances, and that who you are as a person is not changed because of one grade from one semester of your whole college career.
This winter break, take care of yourself. That’s what break is for, right? Don’t let yourself get to the end of break only to realize that you were stressed out the whole time and got no rest at all because you kept beating yourself up for something you can’t change. This is an incredibly important lesson in self-compassion, learning that it is ok to make mistakes, to not do as well as you hoped, and that you are still worthy of love, respect, and care from not only others but from ourselves as well. Plus, how do you expect yourself to operate to your fullest potential if you never take the chance to celebrate everything you do well? Celebrate the fact that you were strong enough to pick yourself up from that sinking feeling of not doing so hot on an exam and focus on the next thing you need to do. Celebrate the fact that you worked so hard this semester and did really, really well on other finals. Celebrate the fact that you are finishing out another semester of school at an exceptional university. Celebrate the fact that you got through this semester on top of everything else going on in your life. You are an incredible human being with a lot to be proud of and a bright future ahead of you, and a poor grade isn’t going to change that.