A is for academic validation

Grad cap lamps

I like to think that there are some serious parallels between academic validation and Regina George.

They’re both charming and alluring – you want nothing more than to be within their presence – but give them enough attention and power over you, you’ll see yourself spiraling like Cady Heron. 

Close your eyes and raise your hands if you’ve been personally victimised by academic validation. OMG! Would you look at that, seems like most of us have. It’s in our nature as students to want to do good in our studies. We get this warm, fuzzy feeling inside when our English teachers would read our essays aloud in class as the star example or when we finally get a perfect score in Math. It feels good to know that all those hours spent trying to understand chemical equations and memorising ancient history pays off in the end when we get a good grade. 

But academic validation isn’t all shiny trophies and praises though. So in today’s blog post, I’d like to share what I think is the good, the bad and the ugly of academic validation.

The good

It’s obvious that academic validation motivates us to strive for success. As a person who struggles with imposter syndrome, getting a good grade in my assignments never fails to reassure me that I belong in this course, that I’m in fact not as dumb as I make myself out to be. It gives me a boost of confidence which activates the Elle Woods in me as I continue to study hard to maintain my grades

So, we really love academic validation for that! Like when Regina made Cady feel like she finally belonged in North Shore by inviting her to hang out with them.

The bad

While it’s good that academic validation could motivate us to study, it becomes a problem when you start stretching yourself too much to the point of burning out. I know it’s tempting to be productive and study at all hours to get those HDs but at what cost? Going through a constant cycle of migraines, exhaustion and insomnia which might eventually amount to something worse doesn’t really sound like a fun thing to experience in my opinion.

Not only that but focusing solely on your studies could also see your social life go up in flames. It worries me sometimes to see people on social media who take academic validation too far – going so far as saying it’s better to have good grades than to have good friends. I’m pretty sure that’s not true, at least in my books because I need a good study-life balance to maintain my sanity.

The ugly

Finally, the ugly thing about academic validation is its ability to plunge one’s self-esteem into the abyss when you attach it to your self-worth. I know this feeling all too well. 

We know the pinnacle of Asian kid academic trauma was when our parents and teachers would compare our grades in school. It was never enough that you got a 90 but your friend got a 92 – what mistake could you have possibly done to fall two points behind your peer?? And don’t even dare to come home with a B. That’s just blasphemous!  

That was what the bulk of my primary education consisted of. If you did good, you could’ve done better and I mean, it paid off in a sense that I was a high-scoring student but that was all that ever meant anything to me. The moment my grades plunged a little or I dropped out of the top 3 ranks, I felt like a major disappointment. The talent I held in writing, arts and craft, and filming didn’t really mean much to me if I was not getting A’s in school. I was reduced to the grades on my report card.  

So, yeah, don’t attach your self-worth to your grades. You’re worth more than grades. It’s been a journey detaching myself from my grades but I’m taking that one day at a time. While there are obvious merits in seeking academic validation, we should acknowledge the bad and the ugly side of it too.

Tagged in What messes with your head, study, academic validation