In school you were taught that being a straight ‘A’ student is a good thing. Your name mentioned in the top five achievers of the class was the greatest joy for your parents. And, if God forbid you got lower grades, it was the end of the world. You needed high scores to pass and get in college. Marks were the biggest determinant of your success and naturally became interwoven with self-worth. Now this was very simple in school, but what about when you are in college?
Once in college, you are in the ‘real world’ with many more responsibilities and independence. Marks don’t necessarily account for a bright future and career. You must strive for work experience, participate in extracurricular and academic activities, apply for internships and the list goes on. So, what is the right way now? Where must you begin? Your classmates are already doing so much in so less time, and it seems like you are not doing enough.
The bad guy here might be your self-worth attached to productivity. It makes you feel like you mustn’t deserve happiness if you don’t know each and every aspect of every single thing you are doing. That you must keep going on and on working, sacrificing sleep, health and perhaps even your sanity to complete deadlines. This unhealthy attachment ruins your balance of life, but you cant even complain or rant about it to others because they are running their own struggle-race of life. So, you sugar-coat it with humor and sarcasm so it doesn’t sound that grave. But you feel bad about yourself and it need to be addressed.
Once you fall into a self-loathing spiral hence started, it is easy to get trapped into comparing yourself with others. Social media worsens the situation, you see everyone posting about their productive day and happy life. First of all, remember, people rarely post about their insecurities or their low periods of life. So, obviously, you see they too are going through what you are! There is no point comparing yourself to a little glimpse of the highlight of their life.
Ask yourself introspective questions as to why you feel the need to work constantly and tirelessly. Is it just to show others that you have ‘upped’ your level of success? That you have bested your last great achievement? While it is completely fine to be your own competitor, you must do it for yourself. If your work motivation is completely derived from show off in your social circle, I think you need to assess and change the situation. You have to do it for yourself and not for others approval, as it can never be achieved in absolute terms. You can never be the good guy to all the stories. And the worst part is, if you try to keep on going like this, it will lead to burnout and affect every aspect of your life!
Being a strong advocate of everyone’s inherent uniqueness, I believe that there is no ‘right way’ of doing things that ascribes to everyone. Your achievements aren’t the only thing that account for your self-worth. There are various aspects to it, from your name, identity, hobbies to friends, family, values and beliefs. So, if you start undermining your worth for any reason remember, you don’t deserve a hard time just because you couldn’t excel in just one thing. You deserve to be happy, regardless. A sheet of paper(s) assessing your progress is not your entire identity.
Acceptance and internalization take time, and the answer cannot be found in what others want you to do. It is like doing homework for yourself, introspecting, making long term hit and trial. And you might never find yourself in the ‘perfect’ place ever, but that is not the point. The goal is to overcome the mentality of working for external validation and trying to feel okay with what you are right now. Besides, nothing is perfect. Every day might not be progressively better. But be grateful even for the sorrows as they help you better appreciate the happy times. Healing is like slowly unraveling yourself like the folds of an onion. You have handle the folds one by one, discard or renew them as per the requirements, with lots and lots of patience.