Words by Cheyenne, NSW
I have always been an overachiever. I’ve always loved to involve myself academically and socially, reaping the rewards of hard work and enthusiasm. I graduated high school with an ATAR in the nineties, experience as a School Captain, a plethora of hobbies and extracurriculars, and a set of gleaming eyes that looked towards the future and the future only.
It’s no surprise that when I moved to Sydney to study at UNSW, reality’s sudden slap stung – a lot.
Within the first month of starting university, I was exposed to all these frustratingly talented, capable, ‘lucky’ people: people who could party four nights a week and still get Distinction marks, people who were both artistic and mathematically inclined, people on prestigious scholarships worth thousands of dollars, and people who could act, dance and sing. I met people who modelled, spoke three languages, flew business class to Europe, or had a LinkedIn profile that could rival Bill Gates’. To make matters worse, all of these people were ambitious, driven, sociable, kind and good-looking – not that it should matter, but I am only human, and humans are naturally superficial, so it did.
I was caught in a toxic whirlpool of comparing everyone else’s abilities against mine. I discounted my own talents and devalued my experiences. Worst of all, instead of celebrating the successes of others, I only felt threatened and defeated by them. This shocked me because I was never the viciously competitive type.Why was my defence mechanism for coping outside my comfort zone so driven by jealousy and fear?
I was so focused on feeling sorry for myself that I actually started to enjoy wallowing in insecurity. It was easier than being proactive about my sadness. When I googled “how to stop being sad”, I read that exercising, journaling, or painting could help me feel better.
No thanks. I’d rather sit in my room and cry on the phone to Dad about how everyone was better than me and how I was going to stay unemployed and worthless for the rest of my life. I’d cry about how my boyfriend in Canberra would replace me with a beautiful girl who has connections in Australian politics and could draw and explain a tariff graph with her eyes closed (he studies Politics, Philosophy and Economics at ANU and I didn’t even do maths in high school).
One day, my phone rant was cut short by my mother exasperatedly exclaiming “So what?!”.
“So what that all these people did that, and are like this, and can do that! Good for them!” she said. “Why are you so insecure about that? How are you hard done by? What are you doing to better yourself? Learn something from them. You are so lucky to be surrounded by those types of people.”.
Although my self-centred, bratty self, screamed at her for being ‘unempathetic’ and ‘totally emotionally unaware’, I finally learned a valuable lesson. After months of feeling so insecure and jealous, I realised how fortunate I was to be surrounded by such empowering, talented people capable of achieving spectacular feats. They could teach me the values of patience, diligence, and hard work. And who was I to say that their success comes easily for them? Who was I to view their highlight reel and assume that there was no grit involved backstage?
I also remembered that all the glory shouldn’t be limited to shiny awards or overachieving milestones. It could be found in simple acts of kindness and sensitivity – like a thank you to the bus driver, or holding the door open for someone behind you.
The young people I previously envied are the future of my country and other countries across the world. We live in a globalised age where we can share our inspiring ideas and capabilities with someone on the other side of the globe. I’m attending a university where people are passionate about learning and worked incredibly hard to get to where they are now. It’s about time that I shift back to that mentality of celebrating and empowering others’ successes, quirks and talents.
We are our future, so why shouldn’t we be bright?