One of the most destructive things I can do to myself is spend an inordinate time thinking of how successful my friends are becoming. This happened today as I was attempting to cram another wrinkled t-shirt into another space-bag so I could lug it all back to college. I had friends returning from a slew of different places for the fall. Some were coming back from trips to Jerusalem while others were returning tanned from working at swanky summer camps located on lakes.
Although I had just spent the summer in Chicago writing, I still felt unsatisfied. It was an awful feeling because even though I had accomplished more than I pictures me being able to, I felt like I wasn’t measuring up to people around me who had book deals and were well respected in the writing community.
Whether or not your friends have awesome internships in other cities or are killing it by getting book deals or agents or that really incredible paid writing position you wanted, it will not change the fact that you will never have those things unless you push yourself. And not push yourself because you want to be more successful than them, but because you have a clear idea of what you want without crafting your dreams from others.
Because if you’re like me, you understand that if you allow yourself to compare yourself to others you’ll be filled with the desire to destroy them. You understand that to measure your success against others is to ignite a scary part of yourself that is reserve for plotting to take down those who challenge you. It’s a character trait I wish I could change about myself- I am silently competitive. I’ll find myself competing against people without ever cluing them in. I’ve done it since I was a child and would look around at my friend’s spelling test scores- just to see how I measured up.
I’m now a college student and I still find myself fighting the urge to compare grades with my peers. Sometimes I justify it to myself that competitiveness can be healthy, it can drive you to work harder and more diligently for the things you want. Without a healthy level of understanding competition around you, you’re better suited to know how to be successful.
However, it is of utmost importance that everyone understands that other’s accomplishments do not devalue your own. You need to fully grasp how little victories of your own are so much more fulfilling when you stop comparing them to the large ones of your peers. The world is so fucking confusing and there is no correct path for anyone, so it’s hopeless trying to make sense of your life if the scope of someone else.
Ambition in this way can be so self-destructive. It’s destructive because when you are only comparing your success to others you’re left with two options: 1. Being an elitist asshole or 2. Never being fully satisfied with where you are in life.
So for all the people out there who are slaying in their careers and doing incredible things, I’m so happy for you. Make it a point to congratulate yourself for the seemingly small tasks that you’re able to accomplish. If your friend just got a job promotion and all you did was finish folding all your clean laundry, celebrate. I constantly have to get out of my own head and say, “Damn, I wrote a word today and that is more than I thought I would write so let’s celebrate with wine and masturbation” and relish in my small victories.