Signing up for the Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Primary) was such an exciting decision for me as I took the first step towards becoming a teacher here in New Zealand. Then I found out that there were four people from my suburb doing the same course online and another dozen or so in the same city.
Usually, I’m an avid fan of ‘the more the merrier'. However, when it comes to job prospects, it was intimidating to have so many competitors. When I looked at the others, I began to feel small and insecure. At this rate, will I even manage to get a job after I graduate?
The comparison trap does nothing but to tear people down. We either end up feeling lousy because other people seem more qualified and better off than us or we’ll feel good about ourselves by putting others down as they are no match for us.
Former USA president, Theodore Roosevelt, was famous for his quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I found this to be very true. Comparison easily steals our joy whichever end of the spectrum we are at.
Either way, someone feels good at the expense of the other when comparison comes into play. We win by others losing and others win by us losing.
We need to stop comparing ourselves with others. Instead we should look at ourselves and what we can do and have to offer.
Galatians chapter 6, verses 4-5 says, “Each of you must examine your own actions. Then you can be proud of your own accomplishments without comparing yourself to others. Assume your own responsibility.”
At the start of the course, I was so aware of others and their achievements. As a result, I was not focused on my own responsibilities. Rather than being distracted, I started to make progress only when I began looking inwards at my ability and what I needed to do, instead of focusing outwards at what others were doing.
When I submitted my first assignment draft, my tutor gave me feedback that my work was too descriptive and not critical as required of the task. My indicative grade was a C-, which did not help with my already low self-esteem at that point. Reading other coursemates’ assignments online added to the intimidation.
One part of me felt lousy for doing poorly, and the other wanted to defend my work and argue against my tutor’s feedback. After all, I put a lot of effort into the assignment and was up till ghostly hours of the night doing it. Surely he didn’t have to criticise me that much.
I read his feedback over and over before finally deciding to work on the points he noted needed improvement. I used the criticism as constructive feedback to produce a better assignment.
What I realised from this experience was that, it is easy to want to defend ourselves by saying we have done our best. However, it is only when we take into consideration what other people have to say about our work that we can improve.
If all that people do is to praise us, our work will remain the same without getting better. It is only when there are criticism that we begin thinking critically and have things to work on.
Now, I’ll rather have criticism than just praise. I see the value of criticism in pushing me forward while praise just makes me feel good about my present.
Intimidation can come to us in various forms – our physique, our family, our parenting, our abilities or like mine our studies and career opportunities. Whatever area in our lives it appears in, we need to be firm in not comparing ourselves with others and to take criticism positively.
As we look inwards and be secure in who we are, we build ourselves up and position ourselves in a place where we can bless others. In this way, when intimidation strikes, we turn it around and build others up instead.
When I began to look at myself and the teacher I enjoy being, I began to appreciate my coursemates who we giving their best to be great teachers too. I need not see them as competitors but instead rejoice that our education system will have many great teachers.
As we venture of into our teaching career, we could then continue to share ideas together for our class, learning from each other. It doesn’t have to be a winner and loser scenario but we can all help each other on in this journey and that is how life should be, growing together.
Esther Koh is a stay-at-home mum living in Wellington with her husband and two sons. She loves people and has a passion for helping others find their purpose for living.
Esther Koh’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/esther-koh.html