"There will always be someone better than you!" exclaimed one of my friends in the middle of history class. This heated statement was probably a response to another over-achieving girl's complaint about her only five-points-above-class-average test grade, or something of that nature. With a meaningful look in our direction, the teacher continued to lecture.
My high school is often described as competitive, and while I am tremendously grateful for all of the academic opportunities that the institution provides me with, I can't help but notice the toll that competition has taken on other teenagers whom I know, as well as on myself.
Currently, it's college application season, so this issue is particularly glaring in the seniors' day-to-day lives. Both in the hallways and on the internet, many of them are discussing their chances of getting into certain colleges. Moreover, with Early Application and Early Decision results out in December, and the emergence of numerous "X University Class of 2018!!!" status posts on Facebook, thoughts of academic rivalry constantly swarm my brain.
I can't help but imagine how I would feel if (or when) I get rejected or deferred early decision, or have to wait for a few seemingly infinite months to pass before learning my admissions decision. As a result of my nonsensical musings, I've realized that what frightens me most about the college admissions process, which I'll be going through next year, is that being admitted does not solely rely on one's talent, but on one's abilities in relation to others' abilities.
My first experience with such an issue occurred when I was in middle school, and I somewhat hesitantly complied with my mom's suggestion that I participate in a figure skating competition. This competition turned out to be my first and my last. Girls (and a few boys) were judged against other kids in their grade, and I rejoiced in the fact that I would only be competing with a small number of people. I was all dolled up and had my routine memorized, so there was no need to worry about my performance. That is, until the reality of what I had gotten into finally set in.
Thoughts of how disappointed others might be in me and how disappointed I would be with myself if I did not win this relatively trivial competition, invaded my mind. This constant worrying before, during and after my skating routine outweighed me, to my utter shock, actually winning an award. More importantly, this dreadful sensation masked the enjoyment that I had felt for many years when I solely figure skated for fun, whether it was by myself, with friends or during lessons. Although competition acted as a good motivator for me, it filled me with excessive anxiety. I was participating in the sport for the sake of possibly winning, rather than pure enjoyment. This experience alerted me to the fact that I have to work on finding a proper balance between my competitive attitude and desire for peace and calm.
This entire article may seem like a criticism of one aspect of society, and maybe in a way it is. But I just hope that once we understand that most of us have no chance of being the best at something, we can attempt to augment our focus on competing with ourselves in order to become better than we were in the past at something that infatuates us. This life motto may be somewhat cliché, but if you look at the lives of incredibly successful people, it becomes evident that many of them attained their level of success by doing what they were interested in, and inadvertently had to compete with others along their journeys.
In addition, it is true that with every generation there is a new voice, a new pianist prodigy and a new gold medal Olympic athlete. Maybe you'll be one of them, but maybe your passion project will make you just as happy as winning such a title would. Or who knows, maybe you'll do both. I'll admit, though, that when I initially thought about my friend's outburst during class that day, I was profoundly saddened. However, if I feel the competitive bug creeping up on me or the urge to compare myself to others, I try my best to take comfort in the phrase "there will always be someone better than you."