You Do You!
In an environment as competitive as grad school, it’s difficult to avoid the mounting pressure to compare oneself to those around you. Who landed that AMAZING summer internship? Who got an interview for that new position? Who made an elaborate portfolio? Who was asked to join that special committee? And, the list of questions goes on…
As much as it’s natural to make comparisons with others in a similar program or situation as you, it’s not the most healthy or productive undertakings. Let’s face it. It absolutely sucks when someone gets something that you wanted…whether it was a job, a grade, or an award.
This type of competition pervades our world—just look at celebrities. When Adele beat out Taylor Swift for the Golden Globe Award, Taylor did not seem like a happy camper. She likely was comparing herself to Adele…Regardless of who you like better, both ladies have unique talents that have gotten them to their respective levels of success in the music industry. Was Taylor comparing herself to Adele in that moment? Maybe…Not only was it not a good look for Taylor’s image, but it’s also completely unproductive for her to even entertain a comparison. Instead, Taylor should just focus on writing her next angst-ridden song about a past lover that’s going to turn into yet another mega hit (please don’t get me wrong, I do love Taylor though…)
Nevertheless, I digress.
Comparisons are nearly impossible to avoid in grad school, especially if your program is small. Everyone knows everyone’s business, literally. While small cohorts have their benefits in terms of creating a sense of community and a supportive network, they also have one major drawback. It’s WAY TOO easy to compare yourself to your classmate sitting next to you. You may have taken every single class together, completed similar practicum and internships, and have similar career aspirations. But, I urge, beg, plead you to avoid the temptation to compare!
Here’s the thing. You are not the person sitting next to you. You are not the person who graduated last year. You are not the candidate applying for your program. You. Are. You.
Now, you may be thinking—well, obviously. I am my own person. That’s great. I hope you really feel that way, but
We’ve been trained to compare ourselves to others since high school. Who’s going to land the number 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on ranking in the class? What did you get on your SATs? A 1280….oh, well I got a 1300.
With eight years separating me from my senior year of high school, here’s my response: BIG DEAL!
As grad students, the temptation to compare unfortunately ensues. But, that’s not to say that we can’t fight the urge, right??
Please don’t get me wrong. Comparisons aren’t always bad. This New York Times article argues that comparisons can help you learn and grow.
It’s also important to acknowledge that not all comparisons are created equal.
Productive Comparisons: These drive you to be better and do better in life, personally, professionally, physically, and beyond.
- For instance, one might say: Oprah came from an extremely rough upbringing (similar to mine), but she has reached unprecedented success in her life. If she can do it, so can I. In this example, the comparison serves to inspire positive and encouraging thoughts.
Unproductive Comparisons: These bring you down into the depths of despair. They don’t inspire positive change, and they often stop you in your tracks and create roadblocks to progress.
- Someone making an unproductive comparison may say: He only had to do 5 interviews before he got a job offer, whereas I’ve already done 15 and have met nothing but rejection. I should just throw in the towel because clearly my efforts are not paying off. In this instance, the comparison brings about negative and discouraging thoughts.
The goal is to try to make only productive, positive comparisons and avoid the negative, unproductive ones.
When the urge to unproductively compare comes upon you, remember:
You’re unique: You have talents and strengths that no one else has. Just because someone did better than you in “x” doesn’t mean they will do better than you in “y.”
You’re wasting your time: Making a negative comparison is going to get you nowhere fast. Whatever the other person got that you want is not going to come to you through comparison.
You’re probably uninformed: If you’re comparing yourself to someone else, you most likely didn’t conduct extensive research into the comparison. Just because it appears as though someone else is doing better than you doesn’t mean that it’s true. Life is so circumstantial, and the grass tends to seem greener from the other side.
There’s a really simple solution to this whole comparison business. It lies in three words:
You. Do. You!
Don’t underestimate the power of the You Do You philosophy. If you live by it, you’ll be happier…and you’ll probably have more friends…