In my life, I have struggled to compete with everyone around me academically and socially. When I was younger I was always the smart kid. I never had to try too hard because learning and doing well in school was easy for me. When I got into high school, all of a sudden people caught up and I felt like I wasn't as smart as I thought I was. The realization had a negative effect on me, as I wasn't the only one who held myself to such high standards.
Some of my classmates expected me to know the answers when they didn't and to understand what they couldn't. My pride hurt whenever I had to say "I don't know," and whenever someone else knew what I didn't. The past couple of years I have been working on fixing my mentality so that I know it's okay to not be the best and it's okay to be wrong. It's okay for others to be better. I no longer fall back on being the "smart kid," instead I focus on being the "kid who worked smart."
College is even a tougher environment. Many of the students at UW-Madison are the brightest in the state or have had more opportunities for previous success from going to a better high school or being from a more wealthy family. Also, unlike in high school, I truly have to study in order to do well and keep up. Being in college has helped my confidence because, as a freshman, I'm in tougher classes with sophomores and juniors and doing just as well as they are in those classes.
In addition to competing academically, there's the struggle of competing socially.
Every day I am aware of the strain that expectations have on my self-confidence. I consistently feel stuck in a trap of being too much or not enough. The worst part is that I am aware of the deceptions and the lies created by social media, but I find it a challenge to escape them.
In the summer I scroll through Instagram and see numerous posts of gorgeous, fit girls in bikinis on boats and I assume that every day for them is sunshine, smiles, and no worries. I forget that maybe one of them just had her heart broken, maybe one feels ugly or fat, maybe one never feels good enough either.
I'm guilty of glamorizing my life on social media, as well. I have posted pictures in which I am smiling, but that smile dropped instantly after the picture was taken. Each time I am about to post a picture, I think: "Is this the real me? Does this really show my life at this moment?" Most of the time the answer is no, but I click "Share" anyways.
With social media these days, we are able to cover-up our blemishes and insecurities, filter our pictures, and make our lives seem more fun and happy than they truly are. We have become obsessed with showcasing the "perfect life."
Whenever I scroll through social media, I try to remember that everyone is living their life in their own way, and the pictures they choose to post only show what they want you to see.
This necessary reminder that no one's life is picture perfect, and learning the lesson that succeeding academically does, in fact, take a lot of work, has helped me grow and appreciate myself for who I am.
I have worked through the mindset of "I deserve this" and created a new mindset of "I've got to work for this." I have learned how to find amazing aspects in myself that I love. Although I struggled with competing with others, I have learned that it takes work to be smart, and it takes perseverance to become content with who you are.