Written By: Isabel Sachi Kojima
December 31, 2014
At school, conversations about success quickly lead to a toss of competitive, hostile remarks from one agitated student to another. Not an upfront fight, but a toxic and tense conservation in which we try to defend ourselves externally but are deprecating ourselves internally. We project a facade of a successful and happy person to everyone around us, yet are hugely insecure. Most of us can’t really define success, but we can all define what is not successful enough.
Everyone has different parameters for their success. You set goals for yourself, and your path will not be identical to the majority of your peers’s. It is necessary, therefore, to not try to measure up to your peers, but to measure up to yourself. In other words, success should not be defined by others, but by the fulfillment of your own path and goals. If you want to be successful, whatever that may be, start by defining what success is to you: what your goals are in life.
I do think that people should constantly ask themselves “how can I do better?” Not better than our peers, but better than ourselves in the past. I’m not saying that one should unhealthily continue to challenge him or herself and never be satisfied, but trying to “measure up” can be a very useful incentive for improvement. This is part of our human nature, fostered by the competitive environment we are put in as teenagers.
Admittedly, this competitive environment: schools that award academics, the stressful college application process, sport tryouts, is not appropriate for growing students. Although it is sometimes motivational, it can also be very discouraging and destructive for some. Students who choose to challenge themselves academically and take advanced level courses are given over 5 hours of homework each night. They have little time to study for tests or delve deeper into their passions, since they are flooded with busy work. Furthermore, the pressure put on students can lead young adults down a dark path of depression and hopelessness.
Success in high school is not being on the honor role, having a leadership position in a club or sports team, or getting a summer internship. These concrete achievements can be part of your success and lead to your goals, but succeeding in high school means discovering your passions, inquiring into them, and learning how you can apply them to the rest of your life. It is about your interests, your passions, your definition of success. You cannot find success if you are just trying to live up to other people’s expectations and measuring up to your peers.