Living by Comparison in a Post School World

*No Emo.

When you are in school, it is almost impossible not to live by comparison. It doesn’t matter how much you are supposed to compete with yourself not your classmates, or if an A is dressed up as an “excellent”. An A isn’t an A if someone doesn’t have a B, or even an F. It’s how educators extrinsically motivate students. There is more you can compare, how many friends you have, what activities you participate in, if you are in a relationship.

It’s funny that in this time of hyper comparison, you and your peers are living essentially the same life. From preschool to college, for the most part classmates share both similar lives and labels.  Whether you are first or last in your class, everyone in the 10th grade is a sophomore.

And then you graduate, and everyone that you’ve been the same with your whole life is now different.  But the training to live by comparison, to measures success by looking at how you measure up to the people around you, for me, that didn’t just go away.

This month marks the 2-year anniversary since I graduated from college. This was a tough one for me, in part because when graduation everyone’s advice seemed to be that graduates should take 2 years to figure out what they want to do. I think this was meant to take the pressure off: to make us feel like we didn’t need to have everything figured out by the Sunday after graduation.  So what does it mean years out and still not know?

Probably, nothing.  People get to be fifty and still don’t know, but that shouldn’t get in the way of living your life … right Mom?

It is so crazy to look back two years and see the fantastic things my friends have accomplished.  Friends that went straight into grad school after graduating now have master’s degrees or have passed their qualifying exams to get PhD’s. They’ve paid off their student loans, found new exciting jobs, started their own businesses, and moved into new apartments. Girls who were single on graduation day are engaged. The list goes on, and I’m doing some of these things to. And even if I’m a little jealous sometimes, that doesn’t mean I’m not hugely proud of all of them.

But what is harder than facing the occasional green-eyed monster, is not knowing how I stack up when compared to friends who are living lives that seem so separate and different from mine.  I’m hoping this sounds slightly more thoughtful, than pathetically self-pitying (which is not my intention).  Has anyone else had similar experiences? Does anyone secretly wish there were grades at work?

6 thoughts on “Living by Comparison in a Post School World

  1. Loved this post! I just got my MA this semester, and this resonated so much with me. I feel so pressured to have it all: a kick-ass career, tons of money, and the love of my life. It’s hard not to constantly compare, especially in the world of Facebook, but it’s nice to know I’m not alone. Good luck and keep it up! 🙂

    1. You are definitely not alone. That is such a good point about Facebook and social media making this worse, where people only project their successes. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. I love this post, feels like you read my mind. And Facebook makes things a lot worse. You see all the accomplishments of other people but rarely the struggle and then you’re stuck thinking you’re the only one having trouble finding your way.

  3. Totally agree with this. I got my degree two years ago and feel like I have done absolutely nothing with it. I feel like sometimes everyone is moving on with their lives and I’m still stuck in the mud. I know that this won’t be forever though which is what constantly gets me through all of the envy and jealousy lol. We will get their eventually, as long as we have fun that’s all that matters. 🙂

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