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Mental health conversations - You are not your results

2022-11-18  Justine /Oaes

Mental health conversations - You are not your results

Many learners and students are either halfway through their exams, or are approaching the end. As mentioned in the previous article, the greatest fear most students have is the consequences of failing exams or a subject/module. 

As individuals, we have expectations and personal goals that we have set for ourselves, in addition to what is expected by our parents, siblings, friends and wider family.

The exams in themselves are generally anxiety-provoking, but the pressure to excel and bring home excellent results as expected intensifies the pressure to perform. Some parents are satisfied with a pass, whereas others expect excellent results, which are sometimes above the learners’ capabilities, even for the usual ‘A learners’.

Students who underachieve are already hard on themselves, more so when others view underperformance as a disappointment or failure. Perhaps the failure lies with parents and learners when they fail to understand that learning challenges occur as grades progress, and that without additional support such as extra classes, expecting good performances from learners throughout the grades is an unrealistic expectation.

Each grade and university year presents different teaching material and requires students to be on par with the progress, which in reality most learners aren’t able to do. Of course, there are exceptional students who are able to maintain top grades throughout their academic careers despite the challenges, and that’s okay too.

Nevertheless, most of us measure our self-worth on the success of our exam results or careers, which is detrimental to our mental health and overall well-being as we end up feeling hopeless or worthless when we don’t achieve the set

As a result, some learners may feel discouraged and end their academic careers when desired outcomes are not reached. What we need to understand is that we are people first, who are deserving of respect and acceptance without our achievements.

Our self-worth, which is embedded in our core beliefs, and is a more stable form of our self-esteem that is consistent over time with minimum influences from internal and external factors, is separate from our exam results (Shafir & Abulhosn, 2022).

This means we can achieve lower marks than expected and still live happier, healthier and more successful lives because we are not our marks. Who we are (identity/person) is separate from what we do (results).


Indicators for high self-worth (Shafir & Abulhosn, 2022):

Believe you are good, worthy and lovable, regardless of what’s happening in your life.

Feel deserving of love and respect from other people.

Accept and love yourself as you are now, with no conditions or exceptions.

Practice self-compassion and treat yourself with care, kindness and respect.

Believe in your potential to grow, learn, change and improve.

Have flaws and make mistakes that don’t threaten your identity or worth.


You can improve your self-worth by:

Stop looking outside yourself for validation.

Increase self-compassion and being kind to self.

Separate who you are from what you do.

Stop competing and comparing with people, instead start connecting with them.

Develop a more positive mindset.

As you build your self-worth, know that “success is not final, failure is not fatal, it’s the courage to move on that counts”. - Winston Churchill.


*Justine /Oaes (Licensed Clinical Psychologist)

2022-11-18  Justine /Oaes

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