After a summer stuck at home, it is time to return to the routine of school: attending classes (online or on-campus), getting work done and keeping up with deadlines. Returning to school also means seeing friends again after a long time and finally getting to catch-up! However, a question you may dread is someone asking you, ‘So, what did you do this summer?’
In the summer that has passed, I spent so much time at home and did not do much. Most of my plans for the summer were put postponed indefinitely or cancelled due to quarantine, self-isolation and the new norm being social-distancing. Despite all these restrictions on social interactions, I saw more of my friends’ personal lives as they shared what they were doing while in quarantine. They seem to have made the most of their summer and the situation we have all found ourselves in. There were friends documenting their group workout sessions on Zoom and sharing about their productive days at home.
It was nice to know they are coping and doing fine despite the gloomy pandemic situation. However, it got me questioning if I was doing enough to make the most of my time. I felt bad about myself, guilty that I was not measuring up. Others were making the most of their time, flourishing and living their best lives while I was struggling to get through each day.
I figured that I felt bad because I was making unrealistic comparisons between my everyday moments with the highlights of someone else’s day. This comparison became the basis of how I perceived my self-worth. In the long run, this was not healthy because by doing so I was trying to be someone I was not.
If comparison comes naturally, what can be done about it? While you cannot stop yourself from making comparisons to others, you can consciously change the way you let it affect you. You can take simple steps to change the way you view yourself in relation to others. When it comes to thinking about comparisons, I recall these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson that resonates with me till this day:
“These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are…There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Imagine if we were all flowers. We cannot all be roses. Even if we were all roses, every rose is unique from another.
Placed in similar circumstances, some of us will thrive and flourish. Others may not. However, that does not mean if you are not flourishing now, you will never come to bloom. Everyone’s life is progressing at different paces. Everyone has their unique strengths and weaknesses. Each of us have different needs in order to thrive. For example, there are some of us who work best early in the mornings while others will find late night most conducive.
As the routines of the semester settles in, there are many decisions to be made. It can be tempting to jump on the bandwagon to do what everyone else is doing, but that may not be the best decision for yourself. Decide for yourself how you will spend your time and who you will be surrounding yourself with. If you are making such decisions, some points you can consider are…
Joining a club or extra-curricular activity – Am I joining in because of my personal interests or because I do not want to feel left out?
Taking on leadership positions or joining an executive committee – Am I taking on this role to contribute to my goals or is this to add to my resumé?
Working a part-time job or internship – Is this necessary or am I doing this because everyone else is doing the same?
Overloading with extra classes – Do I really have to take these extra classes? Will I be giving myself too much work than I can handle?
Rather than make choices based on what others are doing, decide on what feels right for yourself, here and now. Be true to yourself. Allow yourself to bloom, in your time.
If something makes you feel jealous or envious, rather than bottle it up on the inside, try talking to someone about it. If left simmering inside, these feelings can negatively affect your relationship with others. Better yet, talk to the person you find yourself making comparisons to. More often than not, when you compare yourself to others, you are only looking at certain aspects of their lives. When you remember that someone else shares the same experiences and struggles with you, it is easier to empathise and reach out to one another for support.
Finally, form healthy relationships with others by celebrating their progress and building community instead of trying to compete. Take this mindset of blooming in your time with you, wherever you go.