On achievement and if it relates to self-worth

Books on a shelf

Does your achievement tie into your self-worth? More accurately, do you let your self-worth be determined by achievement?

Some of these questions are what circle around my mind from day to day. I have not yet submitted my answer in this particular test set by my own brain. Maybe these questions don’t have answers. Maybe they are all just part of an on-going and ever-growing list of discussions that humanity is yet to have due to the rush of everyday life.

Anyway, where did these questions even come from in the first place you may ask? Well, I like to think that they came to me as a result of self-reflection, but, in reality, it’s probably also a muddled mix of too much time and its companion, too much thinking (thanks lockdown!!). I think that I have always felt a certain kind of pressure, most likely self-imposed, to succeed in academia and I want to understand why. Why do I let this aspect of my life control how much I value myself? Not to mention, why do I let it interfere in how I believe I am perceived by others? Is it an integral part of my existence or is it simply a result of my own overthinking? Can this issue be seen differently by others? If you have an opinion on this topic, please let me know!!

In my experience, I have tied my self-worth to academic achievement, through no one else’s choice but my own. Growing up, I was never pressured by peers or parents to perform well in school, in exam season in particular, but I still wanted to. I ended up putting that pressure on myself, I felt that it was ‘my thing’. If I didn’t have my school smarts, then what did I have? What hobbies did I have that were useful and productive? However, I don’t know where this idea stemmed from. Perhaps, the notion that I was perceived as ‘smart’ by others was positive in my mind as a young girl, after all, who could have predicted the pressure this persona would place on my shoulders later on in my life. However, this is not to say being intelligent or working hard in school are negative traits. Stay in school kids. But an important lesson that I have learned in relation to this is that productivity does not equate your value. Never feel guilty for relaxing. Of course, that is much easier said than done.

Society and success are tightly interwoven and the fine line between work and play is often blurred. We see people using their hobbies that they once enjoyed and relaxed with, for monetary gain or as something to put on a job application. Often, followers on social media are no longer just friends but almost their own currency and an indicator of social status. Looks can become labels that we put upon ourselves and even others to determine our value in society. These ideas are unhealthy, and they are just some of the examples of how humans determine their place and worth in our world. Though it’s ugly, success, in the sense of monetary value, in these past times can be important when bills must be paid in our capitalist society. We are all encompassed in the rush to achieve and so, we don’t take the time to care for ourselves and relax for fear of being swept under the surface in the scramble to succeed and thus, live comfortably. 

Perhaps, rather than being rewarded for the achievement of scoring highly in a test itself or whatever it might be, growing up, it would’ve helped to have been praised for the qualities that led to the achievement. Diligence. Perseverance. Enthusiasm. Focusing on these traits is a good way to encourage self-growth and a positive mindset. In the meantime, I will be trying to relax, taking time for myself and enjoying my hobbies and strengths for what they are instead of what I can gain from them or improve about them. 

This piece was largely inspired by Savannah Brown’s YouTube video titled ‘I only feel valuable when I succeed and I should cut that out.’ I highly recommend it if you want a more in depth discussion on this topic

Thanks for reading!!