The Cult Of Competition

The Cult Of Competition

Northwestern's damaging culture of comparison.

I returned to school from vacation a little over a week ago feeling loose, happy, and ready to conquer my New Year’s resolutions. I felt whole, centered, and vibrant with the knowledge that I had the opportunity to spend my time working on creative endeavors like writing and upgrading my website (I only have one class this quarter). For me, time with family has a very rejuvenating, restorative quality and I came away from my break feeling like I had all of the time in the world to pursue my passions.

That is, until Monday night.

Monday night was when I realized that the career fair was the next day and I spent a few miserable hours looking through the career fair guide, wondering what consulting was and if I was being foolish for not pursuing it like the thousand of others playing-at-professional who I would encounter the next day. Tuesday and Wednesday were both spent dressing up in a way that felt as though I was pretending at some abhorrent form of adulthood that I wanted nothing to do with—my single blazer paired with the semi-wrinkled dress pants that I really shouldn’t have shoved into the back of my drawer after the last career fair. I walked around, accidentally spoke to a consultant (then quickly felt the need to tell him that I wasn’t “consulting material”), and spoke to maybe one or two employers who I was peripherally interested in, but I mostly looked around while feeling confused, less-than, and ready to leave because the career fair only caters to a certain sort of career.

Employers don’t get to go into the room where students take off their colorful snow boots and throw on their dress shoes, shrug off their backpacks—the ones with the pins that tell you what they actually care about, and commiserate with their friends. “Did you go in there?” “Yeah, you?” “No. How is it?” “Awful, dude, but you’ve got this.” If employers did get the chance, I’m sure that they would see something that they liked about those students. They would see the way that they encourage their friends and try to ease them up with laughter, the way that their mouths turn into genuine and not “for sale” smiles, and the way that they meticulously brush the dust off their clothing and bravely exit the room in hopes of something greater. To me, these things—the character of a person, their resolve, and the way they treat others—matter.

I’m not sure how I feel about the way that professionalism and grad school are shoved down our throats at NU. I know that I don’t like the "cult of competition," the way that we constantly compare ourselves to others and their accomplishments. It's the way that we’re meant to feel like failures for not living up to impossible and unknown standards, rather than defining our own purpose. It's the way that we feel guilty for not doing something important. Our parents have spent so much money on our education and we’ve spent so much time, energy, and sleepless nights aching with that endless parasitic for what? For this career fair where consultants are conceived?

My dad always says, “You’ll make your own agenda or you’ll be a part of someone else’s.” I think that Northwestern is pretty good at making you feel like you need to co-op into someone else’s agenda. I wish that NU was a school that put more emphasis on personal creativity, on disrupting unhealthy ideas of success, on whole wellness for each student, on careers that don't require 9-5 office hours, and on diligently farming success over grasping at immediate gratification.

But NU isn't that school and the unfortunate truth is that it probably never will be. So I guess that it’s on each of us to be those kids in the coat room, encouraging each other, not letting our friends be too self-critical, and making sure that we’re treating ourselves with the same loving kindness with which we treat others, telling each other that our dreams are achievable and real. No matter what we want to do--whether it's career fair approved or not--we need to make sure that we're setting our agenda, keeping ourselves to task, and pursuing it with diligent joy.

The path that we're following should bring us passion and excitement, but If it doesn't, that's OK. It's best to spend a little more thoughtful time in the coat room, where you know that you'll have people to support you.

Cover Image Credit: Pixababy

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it


Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

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In Real Life, 'Plus Size' Means A Size 16 And Up, Not Just Women Who Are Size 8's With Big Breasts

The media needs to understand this, and give recognition to actual plus-size women.


Recently, a British reality dating TV show called "Love Island" introduced that a plus-sized model would be in the season five lineup of contestants. This decision was made after the show was called out for not having enough diversity in its contestants. However, the internet was quick to point out that this "plus-size model" is not an accurate representation of the plus-size community.

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Anna Vakili, plus-size model and "Love Island "Season 5 Contestant Yahoo UK News

It is so frustrating that the media picks and chooses women that are the "ideal" version of plus sized. In the fashion world, plus-size starts at size 8. EIGHT. In real life, plus-size women are women who are size 16 and up. Plunkett Research, a marketing research company, estimated in 2018 that 68% of women in America wear a size 16 to 18. This is a vast difference to what we are being told by the media. Just because a woman is curvy and has big breasts, does NOT mean that they are plus size. Marketing teams for television shows, magazines, and other forms of media need to realize that the industry's idea of plus size is not proportionate to reality.

I am all for inclusion, but I also recognize that in order for inclusion to actually happen, it needs to be accurate.

"Love Island" is not the only culprit of being unrealistic in woman's sizes, and I don't fully blame them for this choice. I think this is a perfect example of the unrealistic expectations that our society puts on women. When the media tells the world that expectations are vastly different from reality, it causes women to internalize that message and compare themselves to these unrealistic standards.

By bringing the truth to the public, it allows women to know that they should not compare themselves and feel bad about themselves. Everyone is beautiful. Picking and choosing the "ideal" woman or the "ideal" plus-size woman is completely deceitful. We as a society need to do better.

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