Self-love is a never ending journey, and comparing oneself to others halts it. The part in our brain that causes us to compare ourselves seems to have an autopilot, and sometimes we can’t find the switch to turn it off. We often compare ourselves to actors in films, models on the covers of magazines, how they look effortlessly perfect in every picture, in every take, and even when they’re casually walking the streets. That is the physical side of comparison, which of course has it’s negative affects. But I think the most damaging part of comparing oneself is when we compare our true selves to others. When we look past the physicality of ourselves, and criticize the parts of us that make us who we really are. Whether it be academics, through our social groups, our career paths, personal relationships, the pressure to be perfect in all aspects of our life can take its toll on us.
Personally, comparing myself to others didn’t really hit me until I entered college. I did not understand why I wasn’t like my friends. I did not get the chance to dorm and I didn’t join any organizations or clubs on campus. I was in a relationship with someone I started dating in high school and I thought I was lucky enough to be able to attend the same university as him. I did not get out of my comfort zone. I was scared. I was terrified of the unknown. Every time I logged onto Facebook and saw my high school friends create photo albums titled “First Year of College,” filled with joyful photos of themselves along with tens of unrecognizable faces, I would take a look at myself and ask, what’s wrong with me? Why is it not easy for me to be as courageous as them? How do they make friends so easily? Why aren’t I more out-going? Why did I not feel the want to go out and meet new people? What is wrong with me?
It pissed me off that I wasn’t completely satisfied with myself. And if I’m going to be completely honest, I still am not today. But during the time, I was not aware that I was dissatisfied with myself, and I thought the only way that I could be satisfied is if I were to be more like my friends. I wanted to be able to post pictures online and say, “Hey! I’m making friends too!” Or, “Hey! I’m no longer that shy girl that I was in middle school.” I felt that I needed to be on parr with everyone else to be valid. But of course, posting pictures online or anything related to that will not help me. It would give me a false sense of self-satisfaction. I needed to step back and take a look at all of my choices. I needed to see if I was tagging along with what others were doing because I truly wanted too or because I didn’t want to be left out. I needed to see if I was in certain clubs for the right reasons. I needed to do things for myself, and not cater to this made up competition in my head.
So second year brought changes. My boyfriend had just broken up with me and I found myself with a lot of spare time. I decided to look at clubs and organizations that dealt with medical school, because at the time I wanted to be a doctor. My friend and I found one called AMSA, and along with my ex-boyfriend, we applied to be part of the groups they had such as publicity, volunteering, etc. They both got in. I did not. My initial thought was, “Of course he got in. It’s like it was handed to him. He’s much smarter than me. He’s going to get better grades than me in chem and bio. He’s going to get into medical school with flying colors because that’s who he is.” And then I spiraled into, “What if he gets with someone before I do?” And so on and so on. You get the picture.
Then I asked myself, why did I join AMSA? I joined because I thought I was going to get a boost in a career that I thought I wanted. You know how parents always push their children to be a doctor or a lawyer. I was doing it for other people. So that year, I stopped declaring myself as a pre-med student, stopped taking science classes and didn’t go back to AMSA. Instead, I fully indulged myself in my English classes, joined my school’s newspaper and have now recently been promoted to Staff Writer. I tagged along with some of my friends to their club meetings and figured that they were not for me. But I wouldn’t have figured out that they weren’t for me if I hadn’t joined in the first place. Slowly but surely, I was starting to step out and do things for myself.
However, as of today, I still compare myself severely. I felt that I had finally reached step one but everyone else was already on step ten. I compare myself to my ex-boyfriend who already had one or two girlfriends and I haven’t even come close to talking to a guy. I compare myself to my friends who have a circle of close friends of their own. I compare myself to the friends who are not only in clubs, but are on the board. I compare that they have jobs and internships in the category of their dream careers. And some seem to have boys waiting in line. I feel that they are more wanted and successful. I spend so much of my time comparing myself that I forget all of the accomplishments that I have made, big or small. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching my friends grow and find their confidence, and they always hype me up, but the mind is a powerful thing. It’s difficult because I feel even though I have accomplishments, they still don’t compare to the accomplishments of others. It’s like I need to catch up. It’s destructive. It doesn’t do anyone any good, but it is difficult to stop.
Now if you’ve read this far and are getting tired of me writing all this sad stuff and thinking, why say these things when you can just give advice ? It’s because I’ve searched “comparing myself” online and found an abundance of articles that do so. They’re casually titled “How to Stop Comparing Yourself” or just “Stop Comparing Yourself” like it’s so simple. They’re structured in bullet points as if you follow the points in succinct order, you will magically be okay. They don’t stress how difficult it is to stop. I didn’t stumble across an article that gave distinct examples on what topics we compare ourselves too. They just generalize them such as “academics” or “relationships.” I like to find the root of what I’m feeling, and some of the things listed above are the roots as to why I compare. I hope that by me opening my heart a little bit, that you will find something to truly relate to.
I know that this is an internal issue that I only I can fix. I wish it was something that I can fix overnight but I’m aware that I will continue to compare myself in the future, but I need to know when to stop and how to stop. I know when I’m comparing myself and you know when you are too. It’s our job to catch ourselves in the act and stop our minds from proceeding. It’s important to know someone will always be prettier, more handsome, smarter, more out-going, more likable, funnier, kinder, more confident, more successful and more ambitious than yourself. But this doesn’t mean the qualities you possess are going to diminish or become invalid. I’m trying to remember this as well. When your friends accomplish something grand, you’re happy right? You wouldn’t belittle their success. Well next time you accomplish something (job, school, got a boyfriend/girlfriend, ANYTHING), praise yourself in the way you would your friends. If you try it, I will too.