With the A level and GCSE results coming out at the moment, it is a time to reflect on the external and internal judgement of self.

There is not much more stark an example of a judgement than exam results; of course they don’t take into account the effort, how you were feeling on the day of the exam, the individual behind the qualification and the work and yet they stick with us. This year, with Covid-19 making the whole assessment and grading process completely different, we have a new set of circumstances and an unusual situation. However, the story will be forgotten, the exam results and what they lead to will have a longer effect.

Later in life this translates to professional examinations, job interviews and promotion interviews. Same same, different circumstances.

Some results are hugely favourable and can lead to further strengthening of some people as achievers and high fliers. This label is still just that though and can also lead to pressure.

Society and humans are menaces for judging. Even as a vaguely enlightened parent, I try to focus on effort and unique strengths and yet I know I get it wrong too and do unwittingly focus on results (I am sure my children would testify that they feel they have to impress me with good grades too).

So how can you be resilient in times of external judgement? How can you retain that sense of achievement and success even if the ‘grade’ isn’t what you wanted, expected or deserved?

Of course you can surround yourself with those who know your true worth and the uniqueness of the person. Having others’ support is so helpful for confidence. You can give yourself a mantra: ‘I am unique, strong and capable – this is just an arbitrary evaluation’. You could give yourself lots of excuses. You could hide any results you don’t want others to see and just showcase what you believe is a success. You could repeat and repeat and exam until you get what you want.

Yet, without finding the truth of meaning of your ‘result’, perhaps you will retain some of it as a legacy. I remember asking my Saturday job boss (working at a DIY shop was probably not a natural vocation admittedly) for a raise. Instead of getting a raise, he said that he probably didn’t need me anymore anyway and let me go. It was only a Saturday job, it was only a bit of pocket money and so the experience wasn’t given any real focus by those around me and I probably didn’t emphasise it as I knew it was ‘just a Saturday job’. However, do you know that I have never asked for a raise again in my life. So there is a meaning behind most experiences.

So, keeping yourself resilient in the face of external judgement. My advice – keep it external, keep the meaning connected with the outside world instead of making it mean something about you. Sure, learn from anything that life has the grace to hand you but know that life is evolving and dynamic and that you can always change if you want it enough.