Everyone, at some point in life, has heard the axiom ‘your biggest competition is yourself’. Comparison and competition with others is inevitable. We’re all guilty of doing it because it’s built into the fundamental skeleton of our mentality.
However, over the past few years, I’ve found that academic comparison and competition has been the biggest killer of my happiness. I’m always measuring myself up against someone else’s success, and I’m never satisfied with what I’ve achieved.
Being brought up over 500 kilometers away from Durham, I really thought moving here would signify the end of this stress: new place, new people and new possibilities. Unfortunately, it still pervades. If I’m forced to reflect, overwhelmed and lost are the two words that come to mind when I think about how I’m feeling right now. The slightest provocation causes me to go into a downwards spiral and I feel more helpless than I have ever before, almost to the point of debilitation.
I really thought moving here would signify the end of this stress
While I take a highly competitive degree with some of the brightest individuals in the country, I am also fighting against the immense pressure I put on myself to succeed. It’s true that your biggest competition should be with yourself, because it’s a very positive way to improve in all spheres of life. It seems, however, that my brain has distorted this into an intense pressure that I place on myself 24/7. Sitting in a lecture, the echoes of rapid typing reverberate in my mind, the soundtrack to a mental barrage. How are they typing faster than me? What if I’m not getting as many notes down as them? It’s a complete whirlpool of questions and I can’t swim fast enough to save myself from being sucked into breakdown.
How are they typing faster than me? What if I’m not getting as many notes down as them?
Competition makes you feel anxious. Its partner in crime, comparison, leaves you feeling ‘less than’ and resentful as a result. Yes, it can be positive in certain circumstances. Maybe it urges you to push yourself that little bit further but ultimately, it’s the mind’s tool to play games.
Although this all seems very negative, taking this moment to reflect led to an epiphany
Everywhere you go, you’ll hear echoes of success and competition. We’re always in a race against each other and ourselves, but why compare when we are all made so differently? It’s senseless to pay heed to a feeling that brings you no joy. Every flower blooms at a different pace and your time to blossom will come.
Every flower blooms at a different pace and your time to blossom will come.
If you feel like you can relate to any of these emotions, then please know that you’re not alone, and remember that sometimes talking about it can make the world of a difference.
As my friend once said to me, ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. You are more than enough as you are. Be confident and be proud of all that you are, and all that you have to offer in your own right. I’m trying to learn this myself.
Image by annca via Pixabay