Whether you choose to believe it or not, there will always be someone better than you. There will always be someone with better grades, greater physical ability and more friends. This is especially true at the Naval Academy. Everyone here is considered the cream of the crop back in their hometown. They were the ones with the best test scores and GPAs, they were the physical specimens on their sports teams, they were the ones always doing extracurricular activities. But here at the Naval Academy, being surrounded by so many amazing people all the time can make you doubt your own abilities.
This year, more often than not, I compared myself to my peers. While I know that I have my own level of greatness—a greatness that helped get me into this school—I felt that when compared to others around me, I did not stack up. I struggled in many areas that people I was surrounded by were excelling at, and I began to wonder why I was even afforded this amazing opportunity when I felt I was doing so poorly. This type of attitude made for some very sad and lonely days this semester, which fed into this inadequacy.
Many days after school, I would call my mom with these defeating thoughts, which were met equally with her utmost positivity—a positivity I’m forever grateful for. Her words, which I value very much, only briefly helped make these feelings subside. These feelings and emotions continued to make the situation worse.
The more I continued to compare myself, the more I believed I wasn’t good enough to be at the Academy. This continued belief ultimately led to a lack of motivation. Halfway through the semester, I had lost all focus. I could barely concentrate in my classes and only looked forward to the fleeting moments of happiness my naps provided after school. I stopped working out and studying hard, all of which were feeding my own self-fulfilling prophecy. I was becoming the person who I thought I was, not the person who I am.
Each and every day felt like a failure. When teachers returned my grades, they were grades that would have made me cringe in high school, and now were barely even fazing me. Normally enthusiastic to talk about grades and test scores, I now couldn’t even bring myself to tell my friends the scores I had received. When people made mention to my running abilities—having run cross country and track all throughout high school, I used to be very good—I couldn’t even bare to think about how far I had fallen from grace. While everyone was continuing to get better, I was finding myself getting worse.
I was drained. Each day was a struggle and I was falling deeper and deeper into the hole I was digging for myself.
Everything changed after I listened to the 2015 Harvard commencement speech given by Natalie Portman. Trying to find some sort of motivation, I began looking for inspiration anywhere. One day, after reading up on inspirational women in the media, I came across her speech. Having the time, I listened to all twenty minutes of it and it completely changed my outlook.
Here, Natalie Portman was this successful, smart, famous woman expressing the same doubts and reservations I was having. This twenty minutes became the single most useful twenty minutes of my semester. A quote from her speech is really what helped change everything. She stated, “You can never be the best technically. Someone will always have a higher jump or a more beautiful line. The only thing you can be the best at is developing your own self.” She went on to explain that it’s about the good not the done; it’s about enjoying the experience and learning from it not merely completing the task.
I will never be the best because there will always be someone out there to compare myself to. It took a whole semester for me to realize this. I will always be surrounded by amazing people here at the Academy, many of which will go on to change the world. I will always be surrounded by the people with the best test scores and GPAs, the physical specimens, the people always doing extracurricular activities—that’s the nature of the school I’m attending. But the person that will always matter the most is myself. It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks, it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, what matters the most is that I’m developing into the best person I can be.