WDYM by "Great"?

This is the tenth article I’ve written for Her Campus and it’s kind of a milestone for me. So, I decided to use this opportunity to reflect on how I had to learn to be proud of achievements such as this, and why I thought it was important to do so.

Before coming to Rhodes College, I went to a school in South Africa called the African Leadership Academy, and as you can probably tell by the name, “leadership” is sort of a big thing there. I went to school with people who had been featured on “Forbes 30 Under 30” lists, who had started companies worth thousands of dollars, who had met incredible people and who planned to do even more incredible things. Now, not only were the students (all under the age of 22, might I add) amazing, but the members of staff were too. Being around people like this can be extremely inspiring because you realize that you really can do what you set your mind to, and it’s not just a quote that people use. On the other hand, being around people like this pressures you to compare your achievements to theirs - both in ways that seem logical and in ways that are so illogical that they can only feel defeating.

I struggled with seeing the importance of the things I achieved because why does it matter if I got an A in my Business Test if someone on campus has made thousands of dollars from her fashion brand? And who cares if I wrote a kick-ass essay if I’m not presenting my revolutionary, sustainable ideas to hundreds of world leaders? I began to feel like nothing that I did mattered because they weren’t that “great”, anyways. Don’t get me wrong, I still did the things that I needed to do but it started feeling pointless...futile. 

Stepping back to acknowledge that my accomplishments are important has been a huge part of my college experience so far. It was necessary for my self-esteem and for my mindset to praise myself for the things that I had done, whether or not they were important in the eyes of other people. So, that meant re-defining what “great” was. I always understood “great” to describe something extremely impressive or something that very few people had done. To consider something you had done as great, I thought that it had to be done in front of many people, done for many people, or recognized by many people, and that’s just not the case. I have done things that fit into these criteria but if those are the only things that I’ve done that I consider as valuable, then it means that your deed in itself isn’t what makes it great, rather, it’s your deed in relation to other people that makes it great. 

I have never liked the idea of anything determining how I see myself besides me, so I figured that that should extend to my idea of greatness. Now, I recognize greatness in my life to be any one of the following things:

  1. Achieving something that I planned to achieve.

  2. Achieving something that was hard for me to achieve or that I don’t typically achieve.

  3. Achieving something that makes me proud of myself.

Redefining what I think of as great has really helped with encouraging myself and appreciating myself even when others don’t and I honestly encourage you all to do the same. Everyone is different, so why can’t our standard of greatness be as well? Realize that the things you have done may be minuscule to another person, but the fact that it’s everything to you means a lot and those feelings are valid. 

So go on and be great...and enjoy what’s left of your spring break :)