Measuring up

Most of our lives we are measured by others; our weight, height our IQ and often we  compare ourself against some standard or average. I feel this can be a detrimental factor in our mental well being.

A recent incident brought this home to me. On a course of study that I’m undertaking I had to submit a piece of  written work, identifiable only by my ID number, it was intended both as a preliminary informative piece for staff appraisal, the main purpose being  an opportunity for students to get acquainted with the marking criteria of the institution  We had previously been asked to study the University marking guidelines and then use that knowledge to grade another student’s work, however many still got got hung up on their mark.when their piece was returned, I wasn’t  immune to this sentiment. I had been given 5/10, a 2:2 in higher education, I managed to console myself by remembering what the main object of the exercise was, knowing also that the tutor would give the final result and feedback……I could be marked down….or up! At my present stage of life, third age, marks out of ten are irrelevant to my confidence or happiness, however I do want to pass to the next level, 4/10 is essential for that.

It appears that many young, first time students are content to achieve this kind of mark early on,  they are aware it doesn’t count to their final degree classification, a strategy no doubt, most seem to shape up later by the second year. For me it is the opportunity to use the extensive library facilities, discuss and consider ideas new and old and improve my ability to articulate them… address  issues I’ve never previously been privileged to, rather than any grade I achieve. I have a strong feeling that students recruited from non-traditional backgrounds, like myself, have been grouped together for some activities, perhaps there is some wisdom in that.

I had struggled long and hard to write my  short piece, as I do with these contributions to the Wellbeing blog, my  ‘learning style’ is classed as a specific learning difficulty, akin to Dyslexia, I was not assessed until well in  mid life, at that time I felt some kind of relief as it made sense of the disparity between my intellect and academic work in the past, particularly at school…… my eyesight (myopia) was an added factor as it was not identified until I was a teen..’rager’, therefore I missed out on visual learning, I spent a long time day dreaming, …… library books, the Bible, associated religious publications and some dog eared family poetry book were my educators.

Not having the advantage of knowing the educational background of the persons work I was given I had decided to mark it up, primarily as a morale booster, the work was not well constructed, not proof read, poorly punctuated AND horror of horrors, seemingly plagiarised, I still gave it 6/10. I also thought that the expectation of the institution in question was unrealistic, we were expected after a few whirlwind weeks to make sense and comment on huge political issues, dating from the run up to World War 2. The person next to me was quite distressed at her mark, she had fathomed out who had marked it and had her daggers drawn!! she clearly thought that person was less capable than her.

Having a  statement of Assessment of Need together with a mental health diagnosis or other disability can lead to both financial and practical assistance, applying for them well in advance, gives the best chance for jumping the first hurdles.


11 thoughts on “Measuring up

  1. Thanks for sharing this Su. It is really interesting the concept of ‘measuring up’ and yes it can affect us negatively. I think this ‘measuring up’ affected me quite a few years ago, i felt that I hadn’t achieved the things I should have. However now I feel less like this… almost as if hitting the bottom allowed me to grow and free me of this a little. I still worry about things of course – but not quite in the same ‘measuring up’ way. I love the phrase:- ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’
    Vicky 🙂


  2. I enjoyed this piece too, but it also confused me a bit! At the start you seem to acknowledge that measuring ourselves can be bad for our mental health, but end by urging us to get measured (assessed/diagnosed) asap! Perhaps you’re just being realistic! Terry


    • Point taken, pleased you enjoyed some of it! ‘Assessment of Need’ is a term used by the Student Finance Body/University when helping students apply for additional support to assist them with their studies, it is not an assessment or diagnosis of academic ability or disability. My experience of the process was that it was a negotiation instigated by me to get the support I need to study. I already had the labels and I know society disables us by using them….I was not urging non-students to apply or get assessed/diagnosed……words eh!….I feel another post coming on!!


  3. Yes Su, I really appreciated this very wise piece. We spend so much of our lives deciding how we measure up against those around us. The greatest wisdom lies in valuing our lives by our own endeavours and overcoming the things that we THINK have held us back. The route to true happiness lies in this journey of self discovery, the celebration of our own unique set of talents not comparison with other people’s. Go for it! I’m sure you’ll have a great experience studying, learning and pushing your own boundaries -and stamping your own mark on your course of study.


    • Thank you for your feedback and inspiring words of encouragement. Differing learning styles do pose a challenge in the quick paced environment of University especially with the additional age related changes, however seeing all those young things on campus whizzing past me on their bikes makes me wonder if I might try that next!! I do have a long list of things to do before that final ‘measuring up’…..or maybe it’s not final? Cheers, Su


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