How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
By Ashwin Sritharan
Hi! My name is Ashwin Sritharan, an upcoming Second Year at Western University, in the Medical Sciences program. I spend my free time reading, playing video games, watching TV shows (just finished season 8 of Friends!) and dabbling in the occasional poetry. I was a volunteer with Swimming for A Mission at Western and a member of Western Tae Kwon Do, as well as a member for Tamil Students’ Association. I definitely spent a lot of my first year adjusting to the change and making new friends around campus. As my program name suggests, I am one of MANY pre-meds gunning for a spot in medical school. Being in such a highly competitive program, I aspired towards pursuing my passions and what interests me, as so many successful medical students have said to do. While everyone has different views on comparing oneself to others, I’m going to share how I feel this has negatively impacted me and my strategies for overcoming this.
When and how did you realize you were comparing yourself to others?
During my second semester at Western, I noticed that many of my peers began to pursue leadership positions in clubs they were already members in, as well as entirely new clubs that they were never a part of. I congratulated their successes and was happy for them, but I began to notice a growing part of myself becoming envious and wishing for the same success that they had. This envy expressed itself through comparing my extracurricular activities and passions to others and believing that others had it “so much more figured out” and that their pursuits were more meaningful than my own.
When and how did you realize this was harming you?
These negative thoughts began to seep into my own hobbies and passions, making me begin to lose interest in them and instead feel more inclined to do what my peers did. By chasing after their passions and forgetting my own, I began to lose my own identity in favour of replicating other people’s. I began to feel worse about my own passions and wished they were more meaningful, like the “more meaningful” experiences my peers supposedly had. I especially began to feel like I wasn’t doing enough with my time, and that I was becoming lazy and not focusing enough on bettering myself and putting myself out there enough. These feelings trapped me in a vicious cycle of not chasing after my own passions and then persecuting myself for not doing enough and instead praising others.
What specific techniques have you used to overcome this mindset?
Not comparing yourself to others and being satisfied with your own pursuits is a continuous process, and I still find myself making comparisons between my own activities and my peers’ without realizing. When overcoming this mindset, it is important to take stock of your commitments and to ensure you are not stretching yourself too thin. It can be very easy to take on more responsibilities to ease these worries, but that can prove to be very self-destructive and cause an imbalance between your various responsibilities as a student. Only after carefully examining your responsibilities and looking at your own schedule can you judge it if is worth pursuing other responsibilities. More often than not, you will probably already be doing plenty and may not realize it. The key here is to focus on your own passions and to be satisfied and confident in that what you are doing sets you apart from your peers. However, that is far easier said than done. There are numerous ways in which you can improve your satisfaction in what you do, one way in particular is to write down what a certain extracurricular you are involved in or hobby says about you and how you would market this experience towards showing growth. Gratitude journals outlining how grateful you are for your experiences are also simple yet very overlooked tools for increasing self-satisfaction in what you do. Even talking to others about your experience can do a lot of good to increase feelings of satisfaction and create a more meaningful experience.
Why do you think it’s important to focus on your own successes rather than comparing yourself to others?
Many may preach that comparing yourself to others keeps you humble and that it is important to have rivals. While there is some truth to these statements, it is far too common to get caught in these comparisons to the point where you begin to see yourself as below them and feeling as if you have to chase after others. This is extremely detrimental to your success, as instead of focusing your efforts on your own goals, you waste them thinking of others. These comparisons may also lead to resentment towards others and to yourself, possibly damaging meaningful relationships with others, as well as damaging your own wellbeing and mental health. Most importantly, YOU ARE YOUR OWN PERSON. Making comparisons between people is like comparing a fish to a bird. Both are unique beings, each good at what they do. Your talents and inspirations are completely unique to yourself and cannot be accurately compared to others. If you try to copy your peers in their activities, you may be able to replicate what they do, but it is highly unlikely that you will possess the passion to have the same accomplishments. Instead, focus on what your passions are, and make the effort to make the change you want to create.
What advice do you have for someone who feels stuck comparing themselves to others — how can they break this cycle?
First, it is crucial to recognize that is natural to compare ourselves to others, and to measure our success against our peers. One of the first steps is to recognize when these feelings begin to seep deeper into your mind and you begin to feel worse about your own passions and hobbies. To break this cycle, many of the ways to practice gratitude and self-satisfaction that I mentioned can be effective. Finally, sometimes the most effective thing can be to swallow your pride and tell those that you envy how you feel about them. This may come as a shock, but more often than not, they might be feeling the exact same way towards you! I have spoken to a friend that I would feel envious of, only to find out that they saw me the exact same way, and felt as if they weren’t doing enough themselves. This was truly an eye-opening experience for me, and therefore I strongly urge those feeling as if they are stuck comparing themselves to others to open up about how they feel. Even if the other person does not feel the same way, being open about this concern goes a long way to acknowledge and to work on this.
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