How To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
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Education

Slow Down, Take A Breath And Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

It's OK to take a break.

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There is nothing that flusters me in quite like school/my future in academia can. To me, it's all about the competition: getting better grades than my friend, being in more organizations or finding cooler experiences than my friends, getting to grad school and med school on time, etc. These two years in college have been the fastest two years of my entire life, and it's because I always seem to be working against the clock, against some deadline.

Panic always seems to ensue when the clock seems to slow down. I hate being idle, as it makes me feel like the laziest person on the planet. Any and all free time that isn't filled with work or some kind of project makes me feel unproductive and simply behind. If I'm not spending free time studying, no wonder I didn't ace that test. Not being in as many organizations as possible has to look terrible to graduate school. If I don't get to graduate school or med school on time, I'm a waste and didn't try hard enough.

Time especially likes to speed up when I become an avid observer of what others are doing with their lives. I constantly compare myself to others and the grades they get and the kinds of activities they do in school. If in my eyes I seem to be doing a bit better academically, I get a temporary boost of self-esteem. If I sense in any way shape or form that they are ahead of me in some way in the sense that they are more involved or get better grades than me, cue this line right here:

"She gets better grades than you because she tries harder. You're just lazy and very behind, and if you don't work harder you're not going to get into medical school and you're just going to be a med school reject your entire life and disappoint your entire family and friends and you'll just be an embarrassment. Go to office hours, find another club to join, do something. If you keep being friends with this person, you'll forever be known as the dumb friend, and, oh my god, they probably know they're smarter than you."

Needless to say, this kind of mentality is very exhausting and very detrimental to your mental health. It also became a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Constantly comparing myself to others left me drained and emotionally exhausted to the point where I couldn't get work done as efficiently, or I didn't want to do it at all. So I did, in fact, observe a lot of my friends do a bit better in school while I worked on picking myself back up, and to be honest, getting the hell over it. I realized comparing myself was extraneous and dumb.

It wasn't until I took time to work on my own goals by myself and with mentors and professors that I became content with where I am in life. I realized that this race I'm running against everyone else is for nothing and that it's OK to slow things down if need be. The thought above still echoes in my mind a lot, especially given the fact that I am in a field with high achievers that, in all honesty, have a very similar mentality to mine. It became a vicious cycle because it seems like we all crave the small dopamine rush doing better than our friends seems to give. After my first two years of college and several rocky acquaintanceship/ friendships later, I decided to force my brain to recite a slightly different monologue:

"It doesn't really matter what others are doing. You're on your own path and working on your own goals. It's OK to slow things down when needed. You came from a different place, and you're going to a different place in life than the rest of your friends. Go to grad school and med school whenever the hell you want. Get the best grades YOU possibly can, and work your ass off for yourself and no one else, regardless of what friends or family say."
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