comparing apples and oranges

Apples and oranges shouldn’t be compared.

With interview season in full swing and the first round of midterms currently in progress, there's a lot of skills assessments going on right now for CS students. For some reason, we tie our self-worth to the number of coding challenges we see in our inboxes, the number of interviews we get, the number of midterms we ace, our GPA. It's one thing to fail objectively within the framework of the assessment-- like getting a failing grade on a midterm, or receiving a politely phrased rejection letter from a company-- but it's absolutely another thing entirely to fail in relation to our classmates. Even if I pass my midterm, if I'm below the class average, I despair. And if all of my friends receive interviews from a company, I can't help but wonder what I'm lacking that they all have. Are their resumes better than mine? (Probably.) Are they more qualified than I am? (Maybe.) Am I inadequate? (Definitely.)

And then I remember that this game, this comparison between people, does nothing to help me. A little bit of competition is friendly and can help motivate you to get down to business, but constantly comparing yourself to your peers-- especially for things you don't always have control over-- isn't constructive. I try to just be happy for my friends when I hear that they've all gotten interviews at the same company because, hey, scoring an interview is an accomplishment! And even if I didn't get the same interview, it could just be because my talents don't fit what the company's looking for, or perhaps I just didn't hit it off with the recruiter as well, or a number of other things. There are so many reasons that a recruiter may not have wanted to move me forward in the interview process, and most of them aren't within my control, so it's not something I should necessarily be worrying about.

More importantly, there is absolutely nothing to be gained from comparing my successes to the successes of my peers. We're different people with different priorities, different interests, and different life experiences operating under different circumstances. I can't expect myself to have the exact same talents as them. Second, I spend more time comparing and feeling bad for myself than I do actually trying to make up for the perceived gap between myself and those who achieve "more," which in turn makes me less productive. If I'm not at least going to strive to meet the high standards set by my peers, what's the point of comparing myself to them? It's much better for me to set my own goals for myself and then work towards those goals. Then, I can compare my current progress to my future goals and figure out what I need to change to get to where I want to be. It's much more productive, much healthier, and much better for my psyche.

One of my goals this semester is to focus less on what other people are doing and focus more on what I'm doing. It's true that sometimes, comparing myself to others is helpful (like if everyone else also failed the exam, I don't need to feel as bad about it). Overall, though, I don't need to be comparing my success to other people's. I'm much more successful when I can just look at what I want to do and how I want to get there.


Awesome read....this is something I always think about. The problem is because of how our education system is build which is totally based on competition and not on interest development, passion, learning just for love. Its just unfair competition that everybody has to participate.

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