It always feels like, no matter how much I do, how hard I work, I’m always behind everyone else. Everyone else is better than me, working harder than me, getting better grades than me, winning more awards than me.
A few years ago, I had absolutely nothing special about me – my life revolved around school and I still did horrible in school. My life revolved around getting into a good college and then getting into med school, which meant all my focus was put on getting straight As. This is still my goal, but I’ve learned that it’s okay to detour a bit. In fact, it’s encouraged. If I were to apply to college a few years ago, I would have been a joke – barely passing her classes, no extra curricular activities, my main hobby writing fanfiction with my friends. If you were to ask my younger self, I might have described my current portfolio as my goals.
And yet. I still feel like I’m not good enough. No college would even think about accepting me, let alone an honors college program. Meanwhile, my peers confidently look at applying to Ivy League schools with scholarships. I’ve improved so much and yet I feel so much farther behind. Is this because I have a skewed view of where I am in comparison to others, or is it because I am truly behind? My friends would say the former, but my mother would vehemently defend the latter.
I guess I’ve always looked at myself in this way – behind everyone else because that was, I felt, the only way to constantly push myself to be better. But there is a point where constantly thinking I’m behind and putting myself down stops becoming a force of motivation and just becomes a negative attitude that brings me down. The key is to find a balance between taking it easy and constantly feeling inferior.
Right now, however, getting myself to think “hey, I’m doing pretty okay. I need to stop thinking I’m a failure” is a very difficult task. It’s as if everything in my brain is programmed to constantly remind me of my failures – failing speech competitions and getting bad essay scores even though writing has always been something I could count on to be pretty good at – and others successes. Even when I accomplish something big, I can really only relish it for a little while before my brain comes knocking.
“Hey idiot, you’re still sooo far behind everyone else. Look at them – acing Calculus 3 Honors in junior year. Look at them, winning every speech and debate competition. Look at them, president of half the clubs at school. One award doesn’t make you any less of a failure.”
I’ve defended this attitude to myself by saying that thinking I’m indefinitely worse than everyone around me has had the positive effect of always forcing me to work hard. To always have a higher goal in mind. But, as I’ve now realized, it has also had the negative effects of rarely ever standing up for my ideas because I feel they aren’t good enough, never basking in my own successes, and always being stressed about something.
So, balance is the key. Getting a big head and thinking everyone is below you and that you’ve definitely achieved everything you wanted is useless – it makes you complacent and teetering on the edge of falling from that success. But constantly feeling inferior and like you’re lagging behind just makes you blind to your strengths and successes, and hyper aware of others’, causing a lack of confidence and self respect.
It’s a balance that I need to work on, but I’m willing to change my attitude. I’m willing to recognize my strengths and work harder to become better and understand my flaws and weaknesses and that they don’t make me completely incapable compared to others. I’m willing to start seeing others and myself for what they really are – flawed and strong in our own unique ways.