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Ask Merri and Webster: Comparing

By Merri and Webster     1/31/17 11:01pm

I end up comparing myself to other people at Rice and feel like no matter how well I do, it’s never good enough. How do I start thinking differently?

Merri: This is actually one of the most common problems I’ve heard Rice students worry about — so I hope it’s comforting to know you’re far from alone.

First things first, everything is going to be fine. I know that’s not the most satisfying answer, but the first step to feeling secure in what you do is to remember that everything is going to be okay. Especially at Rice, it’s easy to feel like you’re not doing enough, missing opportunities, or just not performing up to par; but we’re all going different places at different paces, and even if you’ve made a mistake or doing your best is just too much to ask for some days, the world is, many times, more forgiving than we often predict. More opportunities will come, and the ones you choose will be your own.

There are countless paths to success, and this is success that ultimately you define for yourself. Again, not the most satisfying answer, but remembering that only you — not your parents, professors or classmates — ultimately know what success will look like for you is crucial to carving out your own path and being happier and more self-assured in the long run. I know for a lot of Rice students it’s just easier to gauge your success on a lot of seeming tried and true paths to success that always seem to have fast-approaching deadlines and difficult benchmarks to reach. But just because those paths are well-trodden doesn’t mean those paths have to be yours.

Keep track of your own accomplishments and take the time to celebrate them, even if they seem small or ordinary. Share your accomplishments with friends and mentors who support and validate you, and share in their accomplishments too — your first instinct might be to feel jealousy or anxiety at others’ accomplishments, but I’ve found that the more you practice appreciating others’ successes by supporting and encouraging them, the easier it gets to support and encourage yourself.

And of course, remember that these are just a start. Unlearning bad habits and relearning how to feel good and secure about yourself doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient and kind with yourself; it’s okay to take breaks, and contrary to popular belief you don’t have to be working at your 100 percent best all the time. You made it this far — you’re doing what you can, and that’s just fine.

Webster: Stop comparing yourself to people who are doing well, and start comparing yourself to people who are doing very poorly. For example, if you have thus far in your life managed to not: throw up in a makeout partner’s mouth, drop your phone in the Grand Canyon or attempt to eat a literal cactus with spines, I’d say you’re doing pretty good.

“Ask Merri and Webster” is an advice column authored by two Thresher editorial staff members. Readers can submit their questions online at ricethresher.org.

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