Fresh Perspective | Stop comparing yourself to others

Fresh Perspective is a biweekly blog about typical college experiences made strange by the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Julia Smeltzer, Senior Staff Writer

It’s 9 p.m. on a Saturday and as I watch my friends get ready to go out, I keep myself occupied with the next Netflix show I am preparing to binge-watch and a bag of honey-twist pretzels. Instead of getting ready to put on my weekend uniform, which usually consists of the same pair of jeans and a crop top, I sit in the same sweatpants I’ve worn since the day before and put my unwashed hair up in a messy bun while embracing my makeup-free face.

I spend the whole night in between episodes of “Too Hot To Handle” checking social media and seeing everyone I know out on campus having fun together. As my FOMO sets in, I start comparing myself and my night to those I see on social media. I realize then and there that sometimes college is a very lonely place, especially if you’re constantly comparing yourself to others.

Somehow, I always end up in the cycle of comparing myself to others, and not just with how I choose to spend a Saturday night. I feel behind in aspects such as academics, relationships and just life in general.

I see others around me with multiple academic achievements and resumes as long as short novels, while others are studying abroad and gaining internship experience. I know some who already know what career they are going to enter after graduation, and I don’t even know what I want to be when I grow up. Everyone seems to have it all figured out, except for me. So then I start asking myself if I should do more, or work harder. And most times the answer to that question is yes.

As a 20-year-old college student, there is especially an emphasis on hook-up culture and the pressure to date in college. As I scroll through Instagram on a daily basis, I am reminded of how single I am as couples post their anniversary pictures. I’m very independent and I know I don’t need a relationship to add anything to my life, but when I see most people my age having that experience, I feel left out. It’s a funny situation where I don’t want a relationship right now in my life, but comparing my love life to others makes me feel like I should have one.

Every day, I find myself comparing my life to others. I catch myself wanting to look a certain way that other girls do, traveling more than this one person did, having certain materialistic things or just having a certain lifestyle that I see someone else living.

Thinking this way is not healthy, especially at my age. I cannot mold my life into something else just because someone else is living a “better life” that I want. Comparison is a thief of joy. And it leaves people, including myself, feeling lonely in life and like they are always one step behind. On the other hand, if you see something you want to have or achieve in life, it is healthy to feel motivated to go after it. However, if it doesn’t work out for you, don’t let it bring you down. Have grace with yourself.

Everyone is on their own journey. Comparing every aspect of your life to others will only place obstacles in your way. And if you are feeling behind or stuck in life because you feel like you’re not achieving or doing things you see someone else doing, I have a strong feeling they feel the same way. No one really has it all figured out. But if you do feel that way, I think it means there is room for you to grow.

No one’s journey in life is linear, and we are all on different paths. I like to think of life as a highway. There are multiple lanes, and some people are driving in the fast lane while others are taking their time in the slower lane. Sometimes there’s traffic and we have to take a detour, and maybe we stop at a couple of rest stops along the way. Either way, we all end up at our destination either way.

If you are feeling like this, don’t let comparison steal your joy. Just because your life and your experiences may look different from the person next to you, it doesn’t mean you are less competent and worthy of good things. Even though comparing ourselves to others sometimes comes naturally, it’s also a good thing in small amounts. If I see someone with the job I want to have one day, I feel motivated to work hard and do what they did to get there. Or if I see someone living a life I want to have in the future, I can start working towards that one step at a time. There are healthy ways to compare yourself to others without diminishing yourself and your life.

So if you find yourself comparing your life to others as I did on Saturday night, you’re not alone. Everyone experiences it and goes through it. But just remember that everyone’s life and journey are not going to be the same, and it isn’t linear. Look at your life now and pick out things you are grateful for or proud of. Envision the life you want to have and go get it. And never let comparison steal your joy again.