Anyone Can Get An A+
Anyone Can Get An A+
Don't Compare Yourself To Your Peers
A recent article in the New York Times describes how smart, talented and outwardly successful students are falling prey to depression and mental health issues, some even taking their own lives because they feel overwhelmed by the pressure to be perfect. According to an organization that spreads awareness about mental health issues among students, more than half of all college students have had suicidal thoughts, and 1 in 10 have seriously considered ending their life. Every year in the United States, approximately 1,100 college students commit suicide. These statistics are chilling, but what is worse is that they stem from feelings of isolation, of being alone, and of not being good enough compared to their peers. In an age when we are just a click away from knowing everything everyone is doing, we can't help but constantly compare ourselves to others and fall short in our own estimation.
All around us people are accomplishing incredible feats - starting companies, landing record deals, becoming internet celebrities. It's become pretty common to be intimidated by all the seemingly amazing things others can do, and to doubt ourselves. Sometimes it feels like anyone who isn't doing something out of the ordinary must be lacking in some way. In the New York Times article, the writer describes how a student contemplating suicide compared herself to her classmates and found herself lacking. "Friends' lives, as told through selfies, showed them having more fun, making more friends and going to better parties. Even the meals they posted to Instagram looked more delicious." Social media compounds our natural insecurities, showing us in glossy images and excited punctuation that exactly as we feared, those around us are living far more exciting and meaningful lives. And we start to think that this reflects poorly on us.
We compare ourselves to others, our friends and classmates. Someone loves to read books and aces every English test. Someone else is a math whiz, and never needs to study, just gets perfect grades. Maybe because some things seem so effortless for others, or maybe because we feel intimidated by seeing someone far more obviously talented than ourselves, we start to have this list of "Can't Dos", things that we think we simply cannot master, or things that someone else does so much better, so we think why should we even bother in the first place. We think we can't play the piano, or learn math, or act in a play. We decide that reading Shakespeare is beyond us, or that French grammar is just way too complicated to get the hang of. And we give up, before we even tried.
The thing is, though, we don't really know everything everyone is doing. We only see the perfect, happy, filtered images. We don't see the struggles and mistakes and sacrifices; we see the end product, the moment of happiness, the rare triumph. And from that we assume the rest - this person is happier, prettier, more successful, and by extension, we aren't good enough.
And make no mistake, most of us go to incredible lengths to preserve this image of perfection. When I was in high school, my peers would habitually exaggerate how hard they were working - telling me how they had already completed going over the syllabus several times, and how many hours they were studying. I believed them, and got nervous, and stepped up my own studying, thinking that the amount I was doing wasn't enough to pass the exams with good grades. I tried to imitate my classmates' habits, even though it was only much later that I realized that they hadn't exactly been telling me (or each other) the truth.
This peer pressure continued to affect me in college. Most of my classmates in my first year of college seemed to be focusing on partying and having a good time, bragging about how late they stayed out and how much they had to drink. Many turned up to classes p