Some people crave competition. It propels them and demands that they deliver their best every day in whatever they do. For others however, the unspoken rules of competition that seem to take hold as soon as the college experience begins, can become a shadow that follows them around wherever they go. This uninvited neighbor is an unshakeable weight that leaves a sense of inadequacy trailing behind them. From where you do and don’t get in, to what major you end up declaring, it’s nearly impossible to make a decision without wondering what your friends and family will think, even though the decision is about you and your life.
This mentality is more common than you might think.
Besides, it’s only natural to compare yourself to the people around you. But allowing yourself to put value in these comparisons with big things like choosing a college or career starts to create the habit of applying the same tactics to the small things you do everyday. What seemed like a natural thought six months ago can become a debilitating game inside your mind. From what sorority you join, or whether or not you even participate in greek life, to the way you dress and the friends you make can easily fall under your own scrutiny because you’re afraid of “falling behind.”
Everybody is going to have a completely unique and individual college experience no matter what.
The college experience is part of life and every life is different. Your experiences, good and bad, are what shape you and help you find your path. When we go through times of great change in our lives like making the transition from high school to college and then college to the real world, we get nervous and unsure of ourselves so we try to follow the crowd. We may not realize it, but we are constantly comparing ourselves to the people around us.
Sometimes we think we are better, but most of the time we feel like we aren’t enough. Maybe this comes from social media when we see our friends from high school appearing to live their best lives at college, finding their majors, getting good grades and partying with all their new friends on the weekend. You might compare yourself to your over achieving roommate who looks like she has it all together. Your older sibling might not have had any trouble adjusting to college and you fear that’s what your parents expect of you too.
Remind yourself that you will make the wrong decisions – and it’s okay!
Finding out what you don’t like and where you don’t fit will only help you narrow down what you do like and what you want to be a part of in your life. We learn from our mistakes and get stronger. These errors help us improve ourselves and grow. Just because other people seem to excel at something you completely failed at doesn’t mean you aren’t as good as them or are worth less. If we could all be doctors or movie stars we would be. But we all have different strengths because they are needed to make the world go round. You will find your purpose, the place you are meant to be and you will make a difference. There’s no timer and it’s not a race, so enjoy the time you have to get to know yourself better.
Everything you see is a small snapshot of the bigger picture.
When your friends are posting on Instagram or Snapchat they’re posting life at its best. They are showing the world what they believe is their best angle. Oh, and don’t forget the photoshop and filters. Few people are regularly, if ever, posting photos and videos of them crying because they are homesick, reacting to getting a bad exam grade or the aftermath of that wild night out. Chances are, they’re sharing these glimpses of their life because they are too are insecure or worried that if they don’t, people will think they aren’t adjusting well or aren’t enjoying their college experience. Once again, we see motivation to act based on what other people think.
I want to say this: people are selfish.
I don’t mean that we are all terrible people because I actually believe that the vast majority of people are good. But think about television networks. They air shows that they think that the most amount of people will spend the most amount of time watching. A television show’s value is based entirely on its popularity. Now think of yourself as a network head and your mind as the air. What is constantly playing in your mind? If you’ve related to anything you’ve already read in this article it’s probably a lot of thinking about yourself and how you are measuring up to others.
This is what you are valuing. And you’re not the only one. If everybody is constantly worrying about and putting themselves down, the odds are they don’t need you to do it as well. And you don’t. When you feel like people are judging you or are further ahead in the game than you are, you are projecting your own thoughts onto them. Odds are they aren’t even thinking about you and whatever is making you feel insecure, because they are thinking about themselves. Everybody has someone else that they look up to or want to be – even the people who seem to have it all. Nobody is perfect or completely self satisfied.
We all worry a little more than we need to.
I do believe that in the end things work out the way that they should. I know that I need to take my own advice more often and relax. College has the potential to be one of the most amazing times in your life. It can be full of unexpected journeys and new friends (including yourself). But in order for this experience to be completely enjoyable for you, you have to be your authentic self. Living someone else’s dream isn’t going to help you sleep better at night. Achieving someone else’s success isn’t going to add another trophy to your shelf. Doing what makes you happy and fulfills you, not what you think will put you ahead of everyone else, is a big sacrifice when you consider it means completely giving up what you value – other people’s opinions. But I promise you that it’s worth it.