I thought I was long done this process of waiting for acceptances and rejections from prospective schools. But after deciding to go to law school, I’ve found myself in this anxiety-inducing cycle once again with even more at stake.
Last month, I got a few acceptances letters that I was really happy about. I shared the news with my friends and loved ones, and they shared my feeling of relief and excitement. Then I heard from acquaintances who got accepted to “better” schools, and suddenly I felt embarrassed that I got excited over my acceptances in the first place. I felt like I had lost, and I didn’t even know I was in a competition with them to begin with.
And then there’s the stress of pending decision from schools I have yet to here from, but who have already sent acceptance and rejection letters out. As the deadline to commit to a school gets closer, I’m losing more and more sleep wondering what their decision will be, doubting myself and my qualifications, and bracing myself for rejection.
Regardless of whether you’re applying to graduate school or not, young adulthood nowadays is a mad dash to accomplish something amazing by the time we reach 30. My Facebook feed is flooded with announcements of people my age getting engaged or getting married, having kids, landing jobs at impressive companies, and getting accepted to prestigious graduate schools. And while I’m happy for them, it also makes me wonder where I’ve gone wrong with my life.
That’s when I have to snap myself out of it and realize there’s absolutely nothing wrong with my life. I was happy with the schools I was accepted to and the path I was setting out on… until I saw other people’s accomplishments and suddenly wanted their success instead. I came to the realization that my feelings of disappointment stemmed from my tendency to compare my reality to someone else’s reality (or to some alternate reality in my imagination).
It’s easy to get caught up in a sense of inferiority and discontentment when you constantly see people’s seemingly perfect facades—whether on social media or in day-to-day life. But people are selective with what they choose to share, creating the persona they want everyone else to see. And it’s not manipulative or ill-intentioned (for the most part). Everyone wants to share their accomplishments with the world, but no one wants the world to know their failures and shortcomings.
What has really helped me through this process is reminding myself that everyone goes through it at times, even if they’re not willing to share it. You don’t know if they got rejected from their dream school or dream job and if coping with that disappointment led them to find something even better. You don’t know if they survived a terrible relationship that led them to finding happiness with their current partner. In short, you don’t know what other people have gone through that led them to where they are now. And having that perspective helps alleviate the anxiety and disappointment one feels during a particularly troubling period of their lives.
It’s an overused cliche, but don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20. This metaphor is generally used to refer to someone who’s just starting out, reminding them that they shouldn’t compare themselves to someone more experienced and successful in their field. But I think the metaphor is also helpful in conveying that no one story is the same. We’re all at different points in our journey, on our own unique paths, working towards our own goals. Who’s to say someone won’t find happiness and success in their Chapter 1 while another might not find theirs until their Chapter 50? If you aren’t content with the chapter you’re in now, keep pushing forward until you’re in a chapter of your life where you are. You’ll get there in your own time.
I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason and that all the puzzle pieces fall together the way they’re supposed to eventually. But I also believe life is what you make of it, and a lot of that has to do with your mindset.
Essentially, stop comparing yourself to others. The root of disappointment and discontentment is looking to someone else’s life wondering why you aren’t as accomplished or successful or happy as they are. Likely, the answer is because they’re focusing on themselves and their dreams—not anybody else’s.
Shifting your mindset and redirecting your energy towards your own life and your own goals makes such a difference in your perception of self-confidence and self-worth. You’ll feel so much more at ease knowing you did your best according to your own standards and achieved goals that no one else but you set for yourself.
And as I wait out the last month or so of this application process, these are words I’ll keep replaying in my mind to keep myself sane.