Now that I am in Graduate School again, many feelings have come up about being a student. I was not a great student in the past. I was in Honors-level classes; I studied for 12 hours for tests while my friends skimmed the night before. I attended math camp, had tutors, and was punished at home for bad grades. To my immigrant father, grades were the most important thing, and anything less than an A was not acceptable. It made things challenging since I was not an A student and didn't come home with perfect report cards. I often lied, hid, and made excuses for less-than-ideal grades.
College didn't go much better grade-wise. I found it very challenging to keep up. I viewed graduate school (which I honestly thought was an accident and awaited a letter saying this was a mistake until the day of orientation) as a fresh start and expected to spend 12 hours on every assignment. However, the teaching style was lighter in workload, classes were much smaller, and professors cared about me and knew my name. Although I didn't graduate with a 4.0, I felt smart and successful. The B's didn't sting as they did years ago, and I was enjoying learning again. This was the time I learned about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT.)
Starting a new graduate degree last fall was different. I am getting my Master's in Public Health (MPH) and many of the students in my program are medical doctors. Classes are much more difficult and I am back to stressing at 1am on hour 12 of studying. The content is very new to me, and I spend much of my time Googling terms used in class. I started with the goal of graduating with A's, but then classes began. After my first semester, I ended with an A- and felt defeated. The second semester was like biking uphill when you don't know how to ride a bike. With the help of a friend I made in the program, YouTube videos, and a tutor, I completed my third semester and am now moving onto my fourth.
I no longer drive myself bananas, stay up at 1 am to finish a paper, or push myself to my mental limit until I see double. I am working on Radically Accepting daily that I am not an A student; that I don't need to prove myself. I no longer need to compare myself to others in the class who comment on how they "only" have a 3.9 GPA. Completing a class with a B- is great; it's not just "fine" or "okay" but an accomplishment to do so. Not everyone gets a 4.0 and not everyone needs to. There is the knowledge we have that doesn't equate to grades.
When my mind questions if I am smart enough, valuable, or worthy based on my grades, I remind myself that my doubts aren't true. I use Turning the Mind to remind myself of that, and often (especially during finals), I have to remind myself of this again and again.
I am focusing on balance now, spending the day with my kids and my evening studying over waking up and going to bed with a textbook in my hand. I am not looking back saying, "I should have spent another hour on this" to get a grade. Instead, I am getting a 3.0 GPA and saying 'This is great! Good job!' and celebrating every semester completed! I am smart and successful, and a grade doesn't determine my value, worth, or intelligence.