In the race to compete with standards set by others, you might always find yourself behind

Risha Chada | The Chronicle

We’ve all been there. Our tests get handed back, face-down with a big, red grade circled at the top of the paper. The people around you flip over their tests and face the music. You brace yourself because you know you did not have time to study for this last math, science, or English test. You rip the bandage off, flip the paper over, and wince because you know that test score is going to tank your grade.

You know, however, that that was just one test. You can study, move on and do better. But what about when you flip over that test, and the big, red, circled percentage is something you are satisfied with? Well, that is, until the person next to you boasts about his/her/their grade. Suddenly, you’re no longer content with your grade because someone else did better than you.

Too frequently, we compare our own achievements with others. Too often our own standards of self-worth and accomplishment become diminished because we focus on what the people around us are doing and how we don’t measure up.

As a senior who is applying to four year colleges with shockingly low acceptance rates, I have to wonder, ‘why am I applying here? Why am I paying 70 dollars to apply to a school that I do not even want to go to if I get in, let alone pay a hefty tuition fee for?’ More often than not, the answer becomes related to something someone else did. Someone else with my major is applying to that school, so I need to. Or the acceptance rates, the measure of how many people got in out of everyone who applied, for different colleges become a measure of how “good” that school is.

This instinct to measure ourselves up to standards other than our own occurs outside of just test scores and colleges but in nearly every aspect of school–standardized test scores, extracurriculars, how late someone was up studying the previous night, how hard we work and how busy we are.

But the consistent need to validate ourselves with others’ accomplishments and failures can have a negative impact on us. Instead of being proud of ourselves, we lose faith in our own abilities. We stop trying, we tell others we are not suited for the task, that we cannot handle it without even trying new activities or pushing past different obstacles. We become stagnant, refusing to grow and change, because we simply do not believe we can.

Instead, we need to push past our limited worldview that a test score defines us, or more accurately, that someone else’s score defines us. We need to compare achievements with only our own past accomplishments. We need to compete with ourselves more than we need to compare ourselves with others. 

Look to see if you’ve grown from your mistakes, not if you’re as perfect as the person sitting next to you. In reality, the happiest out of us are the ones who are satisfied with themselves, and we could all take a page out of their book.