15 years ago on a cold December night, a little girl stepped foot into the United States holding tight the hands of her older and younger sisters. Her parents were fairly bursting with anxiety, half good and half bad. The American Dream only seemed a few steps away from the airport entrance. As the family stepped out into the darkness, the first winter winds of America cooled and comforted the exhaustion of the long flight, and gave them a sense of fresh hope for a bright future.
The next few years were harder than the family had ever imagined, but thanks to the positive attitude of her parents, the little girl grew up to be quite spirited and outgoing. She wasn’t oblivious to the tight family situation and the hardships of an immigrant family, but she rarely complained or felt wronged by the natural inadequacies of life. Her early school years went by typically.
However, what this girl lacked was self-confidence, and her lack of such an important trait first showed its devilish face when she entered junior high school. She started hearing stories of classmates scoring high on the SAT, an exam she’d never even heard of. She saw friends and frenemies receiving awards and compliments for academic and extracurricular work. Later than most, she realized that she’d been thrust into a competition, completely against her will. Unwillingly, she succumbed to the fierce nature of her school and began to wear the mask of a hyena, though a small corner of her paper heart kept saying no. The spiteful comparisons started, and like a swamp, it kept sucking her in. The bad habit reached its climax during her senior year of high school.
As many of you may have suspected, that little girl is me. Going back to where I left off, I almost contracted a serious illness due to my constant comparisons to others, and so I decided I had to do something before something went wrong. However, it was very difficult. I’m sure I needn’t talk about how stressful senior year can be; friends to your left and right receiving acceptance letters to prestigious universities all over the country while you pathetically hope to be taken off the waitlist for a few okay schools.
This past winter break, I had a lot of time to seriously think about myself and what I love to do. At that point, my bad habit of comparing myself to others had subsided quite a bit. I’m not sure if I should credit my developed maturity, irregular human nature, or maybe even thin air, but anyway, my problem wasn’t as big as it had been. That alone gave me a lot of strength. The rest was given to me from hours and hours of self-reflection, and of course, God, who has been there for me since Day 1.
We all face the temptation to compare ourselves to others. It comes naturally with being human. It’s no question that in this era of technology, we’ve all spent hours on end on social media platforms scrolling through others’ perfectly constructed timelines, often with a disheartened sigh.
But one of the most thrilling aspects of life is that we human beings are so similar, yet so different. In short, we were all created as unique individuals. In the animal world, individual species of animals act alike. However, the human race has no similar species—everyone is their own species. Thus, we grow and progress at our own separate paces. For example, in singing competitions, judges usually toss out contestants who don’t add their color to their piece. No matter how musically talented a contestant might be, if Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” sounds exactly like Jason Mraz, the singer is out. A masterpiece isn’t a mere copy of something. That’s boring, and I’m sorry, but no one is interested.
Whether someone likes or dislikes your "color" is not for you to control or pay attention to. I used to care a lot about what others thought of me, but with my newfound resolution, I simply decided not to. I focused on the two things I absolutely love: writing and Korean culture. I wrote whenever I felt confused or upset, and when boredom gave an opportunity for me to start comparing myself to others, I watched documentaries or movies that depict Korean history or culture. I love the feeling of learning new things, and I did feel a little special for having an interest in something not many kids my age care about.
In conclusion, all I did to stop this harmful habit of mine was accept reality and realize I’m the only me walking this earth. The fact that your close friend is attending Yale on a full ride, your other close friend is drawing attention for her perfect grades, and another one is winning awards for her musical talent honestly don’t matter. Everything that glitters isn’t gold. A person may appear to have it all on the outside, but unless you get to know that individual beyond their Instagram feed, you’ll never know that person’s full story. As long as you’re living life at your own pace, appreciating what you’re given and the opportunities you have to pursue your dreams, it’s all good.
Lead Image Credit: JAM with Mike