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Fighting Comparison In College: We’re All On Our Own Paths

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

You have probably heard the infamous Pinterest quote “comparison is the thief of joy” at least once before in your life. While it is a cliché, like most, it holds truth and can be extremely relevant to young college students. Going to college can provide you with an education, new friends, and leadership roles, but even further, it can truly help you find yourself. But along the way, you may find yourself questioning why your life doesn’t look the same as your best friend, your enemy, or a person you idolize on the internet. Despite working on my personal confidence for years, I often find myself comparing my life to those I love, hate, or do not even know. Why, as college students, or people, do we do this? This article will explore the motivations behind comparison and how we can remember that our uniqueness is beautiful and never a threat.

the Psychology of Comparison

According to the Thriving Center of Psychology, comparison is a deeply rooted human trait that is done naturally. The “why” behind it is not complicated: comparison is a part of our socialization as humans. We find ourselves comparing our lives to our peers, past selves, or even online figures. Comparison often gives people a baseline of where they fall in their lives and can be used as a source of motivation to achieve goals that others might be completing. However, comparison can also be the source of jealousy, anger, and a lack of confidence in one’s self because of what others have, or have accomplished in their lives. These comparisons may find you feeling better or worse than others, putting your self-worth in a non-existent social hierarchy. The negative effects of comparison can be especially relevant to college students’ mental health and well-being. 

College and Comparison

In college, there are a million variables to compare: majors, classes, social groups, clubs, sports, gym schedules, morning routines, social life, jobs, internships, body types, skincare rituals, hairstyles, makeup, living situations, study abroad trips, post-graduation plans… the list goes on and on. For some reason, there is a constant overlying feeling that we aren’t doing enough, or that we are always doing too much.

It does not help that society often places value on certain lifestyles in college more than others, which creates an unhealthy imbalance in favor of what seems like “the right thing to do.” It can become so internally frustrating to try and focus on yourself and your personal goals when all you can think about is someone else who is “doing things better than you.” These thoughts affect everyone but can be especially difficult for young women. The pressure to be the ideal, perfect woman is a standard that floats around society with no actual meaning or weight to the concept. At some point, enough is enough. How do these thoughts go away? Here are a few helpful tips that you may have heard before, but it never hurts to be reminded of.

Acceptance and reflection

In order to help rewire your brain to compare a little bit less, you have to be honest with yourself and recognize that comparison is something that everyone does, and try to accept the reality of that. Looking inward, you may want to question what your motivations for comparison might be. Sometimes comparing comes from places of insecurity. Addressing those feelings is hard and uncomfortable, but important. Reflecting on the types of things or people you may be comparing yourself to can help you find the main problem, and can hopefully change your perspective.

Take social media with a grain of salt

One of the main sources of comparisons comes from social media. The harmful thing about apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and VSCO is that everything is curated to look somewhat better than reality and is known as the highlight reel of life. You may be comparing your life to someone’s Instagram page, and wish that you could look or do the same things another person does. In cases like these, it’s important to remember that a person’s Instagram feed does not reflect their entire life, and is simply the moments they chose to share. We as people are all collectively chasing a certain aesthetic to make our lives look a certain way, but we are so much more than that. We are representative of not only our successes, but our failures, awkward moments, and in-between phases of life.

One person’s Success ≠ Your Failure

Sometimes it may feel like someone else succeeding means you are failing in some aspect of life. This is absolutely false. The thing about success and happiness is that there is an unlimited amount of it to go around. We are all in our own stages and phases of life, meaning that we will experience peaks and valleys at different times than others. Celebrating other’s accomplishments can also be a source of inner inspiration and is so fulfilling. It never hurts to be happy for those doing amazing things.

You are you for a reason! Remember that

Another cliché, but it is truly filled with so much truth. There is so much beauty within you as a person. As a college student, you choose and develop your major, activities, job, personality traits, and interests for a reason. That alone is something to be inspired by and proud of because no one will ever be you! When I was younger, I used to compare myself to my white peers, wondering why I did not look like them or their version of beauty. Exploring and learning to love my ethnic features was a journey, but an important one. The skin, body, and facial features I have are representative of years of history and accomplishments from my ancestors. It is one of the ways I created my own definition of beauty. Now in college, I tend to compare myself to my friends in other majors, wondering why I could not be as science or math-focused as them. Deep down inside, my brain gravitates towards political science and human rights. It is what makes me light up and truly ignites passion within. Like me, you too have passions that make you one of a kind. No one can take that away from you. Here are a few affirmations I often say to myself that help remind me of my internal worth:

  • Life is not a competition or a race. We are all on our own paths. We all deserve happiness.
  • I am confident in the person I am and the decisions I make because they are for me.
  • Change is okay. Change is a part of life. Change helps you grow.

There is always room to grow

Comparison is something our brains are wired to do, so try to be kind to yourself and avoid guilt-tripping. Remembering the key takeaways of individuality will help you through, and there is so much beauty in you as an individual person. I hope to inspire you to think of comparisons in a different way, and to be proud of the person that you are deep down inside.

Bailey Brake

U Conn '26

Bailey Brake is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut serving as Huskython Chair and Secretary for HerCampus UConn. Her love for writing, reading, and speaking originated when she joined a competitive public speaking organization at the age of 7. Since then, the art of words and diction and how they can influence others has been her passion. When she is not writing for HerCampus, she spends her time at UConn being a tour guide for incoming and prospective students. She also participates in Huskython -an 18-hour dance marathon raising money for Connecticut's Children's Hospital- as a morale dancer. She is currently double majoring in political science and human rights and hopes to make a difference in this world for the communities that need it. In her spare time, Bailey enjoys baking, listening to Taylor Swift, dancing, and a good debrief session with her friends. There is always time for a shopping trip, car ride jam sesh, and ice cream stop in Bailey's schedule.