There will always be a classmate who gets better grades, wins more awards, seems so put together. Maybe she'll graduate at the top of her class and go on to an Ivy League college. Land the best job. Flaunt the most impressive portfolio. Maybe she'll marry well and boast the brightest kids. Do you think that's the only way to reach success? Guess what? It's not!
When I was in my senior year of college, a guy beat me out by less than a point for having the highest grade point average in the English department, where we had both majored. Like me, he was graduating summa cum laude. Unlike me, he was going off to graduate school to become a college professor. I was battling depression, daily stomachaches and a paralyzing uncertainty about the future. That student who had beaten me by the tiniest of margins seemed so pulled together, calm and collected. I had the grades, the accolades, and the respect of my family. Yet, I was falling apart on the inside. I had cracked under the pressure. So I felt like a failure.
Successful by my own standards
Then my fiancé (now husband of eight years) brought me home a book of quotes and one in particular changed my outlook. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." I realized at that moment that I was measuring my self-worth by how well the person next to me was doing. I didn't even respect those standards I was using to judge myself by!
If you want to learn how to discover your unique skills and inner strength, you need to stop measuring them by other people's standards. Stop the comparison game today:
1. Realize that every person's situation is unique.
Every single person in this world has a unique set of strengths and skills that no other person possesses. The key to discovering them is to look inside. So what if the guy next to you has a better grade point average and enough extracurriculars to fill a book. So what if the girl two doors down the street from your parents is a gifted musician who made it into Juilliard and is headed for New York City. Do their accomplishments somehow make you less talented? Less worthy?
2. Develop your own strengths.
Our interests and experiences shape us all in different ways. That means that we are all experts in some area. The key is finding something you are passionate about and then having the courage to develop it. Whether that means perfecting your painter's stroke to create murals on clients' living room walls, or using your love of technology to develop the latest computer software program, you absolutely have something of value to offer this world. If you're a college woman, consider visiting your career center and making an appointment to speak with a counselor. My college career counselor helped me more than I could possibly say when it came to developing confidence in my strengths and building my career.
3. Network with those same people you feel intimidated by.
Locate people who are working in your dream career and request an information interview. Sounds scary, huh? It's really quite simple. I used to love reading a weekly column about women in my local newspaper so I e-mailed the author. I complimented her, told her I was interested in learning more about her career and asked if I could take 15 minutes of her time to ask a few questions. Well, that truly awesome lady gave me an hour and a half of her time, took me to lunch, and introduced me around the newsroom. Today, she's one of my biggest champions. Don't be afraid to contact people and ask questions. Adults like to feel important and will most likely LOVE the opportunity to talk about their jobs!
4. Surround yourself with positive people.
If you want to develop your inner strength, surrounding yourself with people who glow from the inside out is the way to do it. People who love their lives and take pride in living each day to the fullest. Join clubs, volunteer, reach out to those people who share your interests. While you're busy having fun and making new friends, watch how quickly your own self-confidence begins to soar! No comparisons necessary.
Maria Pascucci is the President of Campus Calm, the award-winning website for today's stressed-out students, parents and educators. Maria lives in Buffalo, New York with her graphic designer husband, Shaun. For more, visit http://www.campuscalm.com.© 2015 Maria Pascucci
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