I am sure that we have all compared ourselves to someone else at one point or another in our lifetime. It could have been a person in your class that always raises their hand with the right answers, your best friend who is also pursuing a pre-med path, or your older sister that seems to know exactly what to do with her life. While a little bit of healthy competition can be good for you, constantly comparing yourself to other people can have detrimental effects on your mental health and your self-esteem.
The most important thing to keep in mind is the fact that everybody is on a different path. Every single person that you encounter in your life is on their own individual path to achieve their own individual goals. And although it may seem like they are “ahead” of you or moving faster through life than you are, there could be hidden driving forces as to why they are doing so. For example, a business major will have more incentive than a biology major to graduate early because their career path depends on them gaining full-time work experience in order to get into the top MBA programs. While the business major is graduating early and the biology major is not, the business major is simply using that extra time to find work and gain experience. At the end of the day, the business major and the biology major will probably end up applying to graduate school at about the same time anyways. Different pathways make it appear as though some of your peers are way ahead of you, but remember that this may not actually be the case.
The second thing to remind yourself is that other people’s lives don’t really affect yours. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what other people are doing. It may sound selfish, but it is very important to keep yourself on track instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing. While it is nice to check in on your friends and classmates, don’t let their lives negatively affect yours by making yourself think that you are falling behind or that you aren’t as smart as them. These negative thoughts can discourage you and actually cause you to fall behind because you won’t be motivated to study or do your work. Keep an eye on your personal goals and stay on track.
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Lastly, keep in mind that some things that may seem like a waste of time are not! If you want to take a ceramics class because you find pottery therapeutic, please take that ceramics class. If you want to take a year off after graduation and travel the world or volunteer at your local animal shelter, by all means do it. You are constantly learning, even if you are not learning from a textbook. Experiences outside of a traditional classroom setting are helping you grow as a person and are shaping your personality. Your brain grows when you can connect things that you have learned inside of a classroom with things that you are experiencing in your everyday life. Ceramics can help expand your artistic side and can aid with relaxation and focus. Traveling will allow you to educate yourself about other cultures and peoples, and you can apply what you learned from your travels by treating others in the workplace with more kindness and understanding. Volunteering at your local animal shelter may help you realize that you want to become a veterinarian or work at an animal care center. While participating in these things may cause you to graduate late or join the workforce later than your peers, you are not wasting your time by doing them. You are gaining experiences and learning things that will enhance your life and expand your knowledge.
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Constantly comparing yourself to other people can lead to low self-esteem and poor mental health. On top of this, comparing yourself can discourage you and cause you to fall behind in your work or studies. Reminding yourself that you are on your own personal journey to meet your personal goals will allow you to stay on track and encourage you to continue pushing through. Giving yourself permission to focus on yourself and not worrying about what others are doing will also contribute to your ultimate success. Additionally, doing things that you love and participating in activities that inspire you will help you to expand your knowledge on topics that cannot be taught inside the classroom. Love yourself and enjoy the journey because you are constantly growing and improving yourself, even if others can’t see it.