You’re not just your marks

Haven’t scored as well as you expected in your board exams? Fret not, it isn’t the end of the world

By Shivani Manchanda
  • Published 14.05.19, 11:59 AM
  • Updated 14.05.19, 11:59 AM
  • 4 mins read
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Are we saying you need to ignore that score card? No, it has its place. Just don’t give it any more power or importance than is due. (iStock)

As the results of the different examinations roll in, many of you may feel let down by what you see on the marksheet or have regrets about not spending a little more time on studies. Even if you feel that you have not scored as well as you expected, remember these are just marks. You should never let a number or a grade define you, or push you over the edge. According to American developmental psychologist Howard Earl Gardner, each one of us has such a wide range of abilities and multiple bits of intelligence that no single number can ever define who we are. One could be talented in music, maths, languages, interpersonal skills and so on, and it is the combination of these that makes each one of us unique.

Are we saying you need to ignore that score card? No, it has its place. Just don’t give it any more power or importance than is due.

Real-life stories

As a counsellor, what worries me constantly is the black-and-white principles people, usually parents, have when it comes to planning careers for their children. They seem to think that if you don’t become an engineer or a doctor, you are a failure in life.

Actually, there is life and careers beyond engineering and medicine. All the successful people you meet in the world are not engineers or doctors; some of them are journalists, psychologists, chefs and, with the start-up boom, entrepreneurs.

That means, each of them — no matter which career they chose — somehow stuck to their guns and achieved their goals. And you can do that too.

Know yourself

The one thing you need to know is that mediocrity is a myth; everyone has an area of excellence. Some people are good at the more obvious things while others are better at the not-so-obvious. The trick is to identify your strength. So pull out that notebook and jot down the things you are good at.

Next, try and collate whatever little you have done in this area. If it is writing you are good at, try and put together a couple of pieces in a physical or e-file; if it is stand-up comedy you shine in, shoot a video or two.

Then make a list of all those people who you know believe in you and will stand by you through this journey of self-discovery. (While you will need their support and guidance, most of the time you will just need them to lend you an ear.)

Start researching possible career options your fledgling interest might lead to. Thanks to the Internet, you can also connect to others with similar interests. Perhaps, you might want to share some of the things in your portfolio and pick their brains.

All this reading, research and interaction inevitably unlocks hidden recesses of the mind, pumps up the adrenalin and gives you a sense of purpose. And that number on your marksheet loses its menacing edge.

Backup plan

Even if you are sure you will crack the medical entrance exam, have a backup plan. So what else are you good at? What are you passionate about? See which other careers fit in with your interests and decide on courses accordingly. It also helps to know which areas are trending. If gas emissions and carbon footprints are being discussed the world over, don’t wait for the jobs to be advertised. Do an environment course — now.

Take the trouble to find government colleges that offer the courses of your choice. These are much more pocket-friendly than private colleges. And remember, always have a backup plan. Have a Plan B, a Plan C and a Plan D, if necessary.

Have faith

Failure has been such a strong part of my being that very often I pause and express gratitude for the events that did not go my way. My failure at excelling in mathematics meant I got saved the tyranny of working with machines, my underperformance in the medical entrance exams meant I was forced to think on my feet and try out subjects I would never have attempted otherwise. All those false starts finally brought me to counselling — a career I am truly passionate about.

I have to say that each time failure punched me, I shed many a bitter tear. But once I let the negative emotion out, I dusted myself off of all the negative energy and set some new goals and started working towards them.

Recovery rules

Here are a few tried and tested ways to recover from the trauma of poor grades

  • Accept your failure: Clear your mind and assess your methods calmly, putting aside feelings of anger or regret. Do not underestimate or overestimate your abilities. Remember that the greatest achievers also experienced failure
  • Relax and socialise: Secluding yourself doesn’t help. Discuss why you might have failed with your near and dear ones. Listen to any pointers they have. Take a break, say a small vacation with a chosen few. Once refreshed, you’ll be ready to be back with a vengeance
  • Get some adrenaline: Do some physical exercise; at least start walking or jogging through a different (preferably picturesque) route. The adrenaline flow will help you get going. Also keep in mind that sufficient sleep will rejuvenate you
  • Change your point of view: Stop dwelling on the past. Remember that you cannot change the past but you can build your future. Look for new avenues, assess your options and avoid the mistakes you made earlier
  • Take inspiration: Think positive. Take inspiration from great achievers who failed time and again. Put these stories down in large print and tape it to the walls of your study. Thomas Alva Edison, one of the world’s greatest inventors, reportedly failed thousands of times while trying to invent the light bulb. But he said, “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”