Look inward, not outward: Compare yourself to your past self, not to others

Gwen Henry | Cartoonist

By The Editorial Board

Comparing yourself to others is practically inevitable while in college, especially since it’s a place filled with individuals in the same age range as you. I mean, let’s be real: Most of us are here trying to amass the best grades and rack up the most achievements in order to land the best possible job someday.

This game of spot the difference doesn’t just happen in the classroom. It applies to appearances too. Whether that means style, physique or who you hang out with, it can be hard not to notice which people are sporting the sweetest kicks, who has your dream bod or who looks like they’re having the most fun with their friends. And don’t even get us started on how much inferiority and FOMO social media can cause.

It seems as though simply existing is a competition.

Hey, we’ve all been there, so if you feel like you’re the only one comparing yourself to those around you, think twice. In fact, 10% of a typical person’s thoughts involve some kind of comparison. However, just because it’s natural to make comparisons between ourselves and others doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Comparison can be inspiration for improvements and can help us learn from one another, but this behavior becomes unhealthy once we start determining our worth based on those comparisons, as they lead to feelings of incompetence and an overall drop in self-esteem.

Besides, it doesn’t make sense to be comparing yourself to someone else who has lived a life full of completely different experiences, advantages and strengths, which you’re probably not taking into consideration. Furthermore, there’s a good chance the people you’re comparing yourself to have different priorities, which have led them to become more talented in one area than another. For instance, that person in your math class may be a total whiz compared to you, but what about in a class you find to be a breeze? It could be a completely different story. For all you know, they could be comparing themselves to you!

Even so, playing the comparison game seems inevitable, and it probably is. However, it’s simply not fair to you or to those you may be comparing yourself to. So, what if you were to reframe those thoughts into something more constructive and meaningful?

Consider the you of five years ago, two years ago and even a few months ago. Now, consider all the things you’ve learned, all the ways you’ve changed for the better and how proud that past you would be if they could see how far you’ve come in life. That’s the stuff that matters.

In other words, instead of making other people’s ideas of success your own, focus on surpassing obstacles relevant to your own progress when it comes to goal-making. And when you reach those goals, celebrate yourself and take pride, even in those victories you feel are small.

In the process, remember not to fixate too far into the future, and keep your goals down to earth and attainable for your lifestyle. While the future is certainly important, there’s no time like the present, so prioritize it.

Surely you will find that shutting out all the noise happening around you and focusing solely on your own progress will be refreshing and enlightening. After all, the only person you need to impress in order to find fulfillment in life should be yourself. And remember, wherever you are in life — and whether or not you feel like you are lagging behind everyone else — know that everything will fall into place and that you are right on time.