I spoke with Nishtha Juneja at Teen Talk India on how to disassociate marks from self-worth.

In your experience of dealing with teenagers, what is the relationship between academic performance and their self-worth?
Since my clinic is close to the IIT Bombay campus, I get a lot of queries where teenagers find it difficult to cope with academic pressure. They do associate their self-worth with how many marks they’ve scored.

When do you get the maximum number of cases?
The months from December to March are filled with these type of cases because board exams are going on. This is the time when the pressure is very high. And in June, the same pattern repeats. The results come out and the students feel like they haven’t got enough marks.

They also face discouragement from teachers as well. They tell them that if they haven’t scored high marks, they will be held back. Parents also contribute to this line of thought.

Could you share some tips on how to disengage from the idea that marks is a reflection of your self-worth?
1. Maintain a rational thought process: While it is important to score a 96 per cent, a 94 per cent or a 95 per cent doesn’t mean you are worthless.

2. Say rational statements to yourself: Rational statements such as, “It is important to score good marks, but it is not the end of the world,” helps in maintaining emotional equilibrium.

3. Read about successful people: There some personalities such as Mark Zuckerberg who were college dropouts but still managed to become successful in their chosen fields.

4. Focus on being good human beings: Aspire to become good human beings who will contribute to the society in meaningful ways, even if that means scoring less marks in boards or competitive exams.

5. Success lies in happiness: Happiness is a state of mind that drives us to excellence. There is a direct co-relation between the two. Strive to be happy in whatever you have and success will follow.

What are some of the reasons why teenagers cannot cope with academic stress?
1. No competitive spirit: Some teenagers are not prepared to pursue IIT. They get in after 4-5 attempts. If the competitive spirit is not ingrained in them, then they will not do well.

2. Parental and peer pressure: 40-50 per cent of the students pursue it because of parents and friends. Then their marks come in, which leads to depression, anxiety disorders and suicide attempts.

3. Self-identity and self-worth: Getting into premier institutions and academics has become a stamp of self-worth. Teenagers should ask themselves; is this something that they want to do? Unfortunately, they ask these questions to themselves after 1st year.

4. Loneliness: Teenagers from small towns find it difficult to connect with people in bigger cities. There is no outlet for them. Friends become competition; they also back stab.

5. No professional help: Reaching out and seeking professional help is imperative in such situations. Unfortunately, many do not have access to professional help.

Your message to teenagers across India who have given their exams and have yet to get their results.
Academics have become a stamp of your self-worth, which it shouldn’t be. Teenagers think that if I score 90 per cent, only then I am worthwhile.

I want to tell all teenagers that your worth is who you are from inside. Marks are just a number, they will come and go. If they disengage themselves from this view, they will be happier.

This interview originally appeared in Teen Talk India.