Our entire lives, it seems we are in a competition. We try to beat other children in footraces on the lawn, we fight with our siblings to try and gain our parents' attention. We stress over who got the highest score on the SAT's and we lose months of sleep over how to make our college application stand out in the mass of papers each school receives. We are bred to want to be the best, a societal norm that has proven to be, at least in my life, destructive. 

My friends and I are busy. We are busy all of the time. We're all performing arts majors, so we're always either in class, rehearsing, studying, prepping for an audition, learning new choreography, performing a show or going to dance workshops. When we can somehow make the time, we're in the gym, trying to keep our tired selves in shape for whatever performance we're working on. A lot of times, we're like ships passing in the night, seeing each other for a quick bite to eat or a coffee between classes. 

During my second semester, my schedule opened up a little and I had an hour or so in the middle of the day to myself between my morning and afternoon classes. After realizing this and learning that my friends were still in class while I was catching up on work in my room, my reaction was guilt. Why am I in my room while they're working so hard? 

"They're trying harder than I am at this," I told myself. They're better, they're more dedicated. "If I was really dedicated, I wouldn't have any spare time at all," I thought. 

My roommate is gorgeous. She's a dancer, tall and toned, with long, light hair and legs for days. Not to mention, she is the sweetest person on the face of the entire planet. I'm the opposite physically, standing at five feet and... no inches. We don't look alike at all, and often I find myself envying her long legs, her dancer's flexibility and adorable wardrobe. She is an incredibly supportive friend, backing me up when I want to go to the gym for three hours or when I want to eat an entire pizza by myself. Living with a model who has an amazing personality has its drawbacks, folks.  

We are bred to want to be the best: the most successful, the most dedicated, the best singer, the best dancer, the busiest and the hardest worker. I want to get the best grades to catch the professor's eye because then he might recommend me for an internship or a masterclass. We pit ourselves against each other, hoping to beat out our friends for a role in the musical or a spot in the dance number. It's not because we don't love them, but because we want to be the best, and we want everyone to see that we were good enough to get a spot when not everyone was chosen. 

What I have found is that, over time, living a life of comparison leads to crippling self-doubt. If you are constantly telling yourself that you are not as worthy of opportunity as the people around you simply because your lives are different then chances are that you believe your words. I know I did, and sometimes still do. 

It's impossible to eradicate every trace of self-doubt, especially if you are in an industry whose livelihood depends on comparison, like the performing arts. However, there is one thing that helps: kindness. Be kind to yourself. Your path to success isn't the same as your best friend's, your journey to happiness is not the same as the girl who got the lead in the department play this semester. Your path to happiness is you doing your best, and taking care of yourself. Keep your eyes on your own paper; your classmate's answers to life's questions might not be the same as yours, and that's okay.  

Lead Image Credit: Pexels