With only a few weeks left in the semester, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about something that many students struggle with when in this journey called college. As Isenberg students, we are driven, we are motivated, we are determined people. We are part of this amazing culture that strives for success. Yet, we are human and at times can fall into the trap of comparison. Although we have many strengths and skills that make us competent and have indeed brought us to this very place, when we look at our peers and measure ourselves to them, we put ourselves in a big danger zone. I’m referring to comparison. When we compare ourselves to others, we forget who we are and diminish the value of what it is that makes us unique. It can be so easy to get into the “survival of the fittest” mindset – thinking “I have to be the best” or “wow they are so ahead, I have to work harder to be better”. This is especially true since most of us have a competitive mindset. But lo and behold, if we do not catch ourselves, we begin to see our peers as our competition, instead of people to grow and succeed with.
Maybe you have seen this happen to you when your friend got an internship and you didn’t and because of this you started doubting what it is they had that you didn’t. Or maybe someone in your class has more work experience than you have and all of a sudden you feel inexperienced and like you are behind. However, this is not healthy and will only create insecurities within yourself. Comparing yourself to others does not determine your self-worth. You are enough. You have amazing qualities and just because you did not get a specific opportunity or aren’t where you think you should be by now, it doesn’t mean you are inferior or any less qualified. It definitely does not mean that you are behind. It just might not be your time yet. We all have different paces in our journey and that is part of life.
There is a healthy manner in which we compare ourselves to others. Using comparison to help us understand what is expected of us or analyze how we might improve is one healthy manner to use it. However, if we compare ourselves and belittle what we bring to the table, we create a sense of inferiority within us. In reality, we each have amazing strengths and unique qualities that allow us to contribute to our school and society. Our differences make us strong. We aren’t supposed to be good at everything and we sure aren’t expected to. So why do we expect it from ourselves?
What is important to remember is to always give your best. Strive to improve daily while understanding that there is a process in everything. Having a competitive nature is a great quality to have, it means that you have a drive to succeed. However, being competitive is different from living in comparison. Are you competing with yourself or others? Comparison will steal your joy and keep you from focusing on being your best self and most importantly from being you.
Here are a few steps you can take to help deal with comparison:
- Take some time to know yourself. Ask yourself questions such as: What are my strengths? What is something I have a passion for? What am I really good at? The answers to these questions are the things you naturally identify with. Seek to master these topics and skills. Dive in deep and you will figure out what makes you unique. This way, when you work in a group or partake in an internship or work opportunity, you will confidently bring your strengths to the table, admiring the contributions of others without doubting yourself.
- Have patience with yourself and your process. Everyone has a different pace they will run at and that’s okay. Someone might be at a different place in their journey than you, but it doesn’t mean that they are ahead or that you are behind. What’s important is that you are focusing on the now and giving your best in everything you do. The rest will come at the right time. If you are able to be content with yourself and love your own process, you will have the patience to wait for the wonderful things that lie ahead for you.
- Cheer others on while you wait for your big break. The truth is that your peers are not your competition. The focus is not to be better than others, but to be confident in yourself and what you do. Just because someone has strengths that are different from yours, it doesn’t mean that they are better or that you are any less. Learn to applaud others for their accomplishments. Be grateful for your accomplishment too, including the little milestones along the way.
- In the meantime, give yourself the space to breathe. Have fun, meet new people, join some clubs and do the things that you genuinely enjoy. It’s important to remember that you’re here not only to study, but also to gain memorable experiences. UMass is full of adventure and opportunity. Don’t forget to make the most of it while you are here.
Rachel Lopes is a Chase Career Peer – click HERE to access her bio.