Finding Happiness in Competitive Places

Ashley Clarke - VP Student Life
Posted on: February 6, 2019

Hello again everyone! I hope the first few weeks of the term have been going well. As the midterm season approaches, I want to spend this article focusing on mental health and positive ways to cope with competition, stress, and comparing yourself to classmates.

Being a student in Waterloo Engineering is an amazing journey. One of the best parts about Waterloo Engineering is the opportunity to be a part of a community of some of the brightest minds in the world. However, that’s not to say that being in Waterloo Engineering doesn’t have its hard times too. I’ve often felt isolated here, and I feel that as students we compare ourselves to each other way too often. I think that healthy competition can be a good thing, but when the competition becomes something that makes you perceive yourself or others in a negative way it’s no longer healthy.

I’ve dealt with this first hand. I get grades that are below average (but passing) and I feel as though it takes me twice as long to understand concepts as it does for my classmates (but I usually get there in the end). I often need extra help, and I reach out and ask for it. I am comfortable with all of these facts now, and I work to better myself every day.

However, the time in my life when I was the most unhappy was also the time in my life when I compared myself to my classmates the most. So I wanted to share this story for anyone who might read my articles, in the hope that I can help at least one of you.

I spent the first three years at university being ashamed of myself for not being as good as my classmates. None of these things has changed. I still receive below average grades. It still takes me a long time to understand new concepts. I still feel unprepared for a quiz every now and then. However, I am a lot happier now and there are some things I discovered along the way.

My version of good is not the same as everyone around me, nor should it be. When I finally understand a concept that I struggled with, raise a mark in a particularly difficult class or get an assignment back with feedback that I understand, I am proud. I deserve to be, I’m improving from the place where I started.

I excel at things outside of class, and I will not receive stellar grades unless I quit doing the things that I love. I am a part-time TA, VP Student Life, and a very loving fish mom. If I dropped even one of those activities I could probably focus that time on class and get better grades, but I wouldn’t be nearly as happy.

My happiest is when I make time for my friends and family, and especially when I stop comparing my grades to those around me. So I leave those situations if I can, and I don’t take part in them when they happen around me.

It might seem like I’ve chosen to ignore my problems instead of working harder to solve them. But I like to think instead that I choose to focus on what’s most important to me, what I value in my life the most, and what makes me happy. I hope that if you’re in the same situation that you can take a step back and decide what matters to you the most too.

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