Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Photo Credit: Joshua Chua via Unsplash

Advice on enjoying university life

Daisy Thomas, The Mike Contributor

The word “comparison,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as the process of comparing two or more people or things. The process of comparison is known to be valuable in self-improvement, and often, it is a way for us to reduce uncertainty about how we are doing by assessing how others perform. Despite this, comparison can quickly escalate into self-destructive tendencies if done on a regular basis as feelings of resentment, envy, and hopelessness begin to pile. From grades to social experiences, university is a common setting where comparison can easily become an issue and this is where my piece of advice comes in.

Starting university brought about many unknowns as I stepped into a brand-new environment. A few concerns that swirled through my mind were: Will I be able to find friends? Is my course load too heavy? HOW DO I EVEN STUDY?!? Moreover, I remember feeling so overwhelmed by the simple thought of going to university and being an ‘adult’. To battle many of the unknowns, I did what a majority of us would do…turn to social media! From the academia TikToks to the videos on aesthetic note-taking and daily routines of a university student, I found myself scrolling through endless social media platforms trying to get an idea of what university was like.

Unknowingly, I was building my expectations of what my university experience should be like. When school started, I slowly began to question why I couldn’t be just like those who I saw online. From the neat notes, the straight 4.0s, and the idealistic balanced lifestyle, the feelings of inadequacy and disappointment slowly began to creep in. Moreover, it was easy to get wrapped up in comparing my experience of university to peers, or to pick  apart my grades as I looked at course averages. So, what can we do in these types of situations, when our university experience doesn’t compare to our expectations or peers?

It’s easy for one to say “don’t compare,” but to address the deep-rooted issue is to understand that everyone in university is on a different path. We all face different circumstances or factors that influence our experience at  university. Thus, it wouldn’t be right for you to compare your own journey to someone else’s who may be  at a totally different place than you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to take inspiration from those around you, especially when looking for feedback on ways that you can improve yourself. But the issue comes when you constantly downplay your own achievements or steps, in light of feeling unaccomplished when comparing yourself to others. My high school teacher once told me that in any ‘pond’ there will always be a ‘bigger fish.’ This means that in life there will always be someone who is better at certain tasks or has a higher skillset. So, instead of spending your time comparing yourself with others, focus on your own journey and things that inspire and challenge you! When we stay in the headspace of comparison, we forget the positive aspects of the situation that may give us the opportunity to grow. For example, a majority of university students have experienced the gut-wrenching situation where they performed lower on an assessment than expected. Looking at the course average or comparing your grade to peers’ may bring about mixed emotions of embarrassment or guilt, but if you ever find yourself in this scenario, take the  time to look at what went wrong, what information you do or don’t know, and how you can improve for next time. When you take the path of self-growth opposed to comparison, you actively find ways to change certain aspects and attain personal success.

A quote that sums up my piece of advice is from Theodore Roosevelt, who stated, “comparison is the thief of joy.” As you step into this new chapter in your life, give yourself time to adjust and focus on your own efforts. Appreciate the steps that you have taken and allow yourself to grow through the mistakes. University is an adjustment, and it will take time to get into a routine that works for you. Inevitably, university is what you make of it, and it is far better to spend your time developing your passions and skills rather than comparing your experience to others. I wish you all the best for your first year and I hope you have a wonderful time at U of T!