An Open Letter to Achievers

Lauren Cohen

Voices Editor

I know that what I am worth as a human being has nothing to do with any of my accomplishments or failures. Yet I still live my life feeling as though my accomplishments- test scores, grades, etc- are what make me worthy, what determine my value as a member of society. There is this underlying societal perception that those with high grades, high test scores, and impressive college admissions are going somewhere, while others who have less impressive scores and less accomplishments are not as likely to achieve “success.”

It is so easy to forget that the person with straight C’s and the person with straight A’s, the person at Harvard and the person at a community college, are equally as beautiful and valuable as human beings. We are constantly pushed to improve and become more efficient, but we are never taught that it is also important to accept where and who we are in every moment.

This perception of self worth is a struggle that many of us, especially as high school students constantly reminded of college, know far too well. For that reason, I decided to share some of my thoughts on this reality, in the hopes that they may bring comfort to peers also facing this challenge.

In the same way that throughout time, people have adorned themselves with diamond jewellery and silk clothing to signal social superiority- today’s shiny jewels and silk garments are the college admission letters, transcripts and test scores used to signal intellectual and overall superiority. What is often forgotten, however, is that behind the masks of money and badges of “accomplishment,”all that lies is blood and flesh- oxygen, water, organs, thoughts- intricacies that we all have and that make us all equally beautiful.

What is lost in this societal perception, fabricated by numbers and shiny rocks, is the truth- the inherent beauty that every single person is born with. The beauty that comes from simply being alive, the beauty that comes with the realization that we have a breath and a story. Yet, I find it so hard, especially in the high pressure academic setting, to remember that I am worth something- regardless of if my GPA is a 1.0 or a 4.5- regardless of my ACT score being a 20 or a 35. I fall back so easily into the illusion that I will only “get somewhere” or “be somebody” if I “do well”- that is, score high and work hard.

By no means is it bad to want to accomplish things and meet your goals. Doing so feels absolutely great. What I do believe, though, is that it is so important to take everything in context, to understand what kind of success our goals are aimed at. It is also important not to confuse the standards that we believe will bring that kind of “success” with the inherent aspects of our own self worth.

To you, reading this letter: I want to remind you of how beautiful you are. And I know how overused and corny that phrase sounds. After being thrown around by so many cheesy Teen Magazines and self-help books, it sounds almost meaningless. But I mean it with my entire being. The fact that you have a heart that thumps ever loyally to keep you going. The fact that you have lungs that contract and expand to ensure that you can breathe in oxygen. The fact that you have thoughts, and that your thoughts are only yours. The fact that you are the only one to ever hear your mind, with its beautiful clockwork constantly ticking away. All these things make you beautiful.

You are beautiful because you have lived a life that is only your own: a life that has never been lived by anyone else and that will never be experienced, in the same way, by anyone else.

It’s just so easy to forget what miracles we are, as we are constantly reminded of standards we must meet, of scores we must attain and positions we must hold to “be good enough.” We are constantly and implicitly reminded that we will never be good enough.  But I refuse to accept this any longer.

You, as a being with the power to speak, to listen, to dance, to love and to feel- are amazing. You, my friend, are beautiful because you have felt- you have felt the world around you, you have let it in, you have cried and laughed and screamed and whispered. These facts of your beauty, that you are a walking miracle of life, never change- no matter how many things you accomplish, no matter how high or low your grades are. So forget your GPA, SAT, or ACT scores and any voice in your head telling you that you are not good enough. Because your beauty is yours and it is beyond any form of accomplishment or goal.

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