I am borrowing some wisdom from Theodore Roosevelt which, although it has been repeated millions of times, took on new relevance when I found it floating on a familiar blog.
In the final six months of my nursing degree, this is the biggest piece of advice I can give: stop comparing yourself to those around you. Stop comparing yourself to other student nurses as they talk about their assignments, dissertations, placements and job interviews. Stop comparing yourself to qualified nurses, with time and experience owing to why they have the skills they possess. If you keep making these comparisons you are not being fair to yourself.
I’m going to let you in on a secret - nobody knows what they’re doing all the time, and people do not often share openly and honestly about how and why they are feeling lost. When you hear other people talk it’s only what they are comfortable talking about, subjects that won’t make them upset or stressed (cue immediate flapping). Other student nurses will share some struggles, they will say ‘my assignment is rubbish’ but when it comes to subjects they are truly wary of they avoid them and mysteriously disappear mid-conversation or hope that when they changed the topic of conversation it was subtle enough to prevent others asking why.
Comparison is nothing but trouble. People share what they are happy to share and you inwardly compare it to every aspect of yourself that you are not happy with. It isn’t honest, it’s completely subjective and it just makes you feel terrible.
There are many days during which I fall victim to the temptation of comparison and end up in a mess because it induces panic in me, one in which I convince myself that I am behind in every aspect of my nursing degree. I have not accomplished much of my dissertation yet. I have not applied to any jobs, which obviously means that I have not yet secured a job for after I qualify. Many people are ahead of me in these aspects and I recognise that, but to allow constant comparison, self-judgment, and fretting over it is not going to help.
The only person you should compare yourself to is you. You shouldn’t use comparison to belittle yourself or to gloat over your achievements. Compare your expectations of yourself with what you are actually achieving, whilst ensuring your expectations are realistic and achievable in the first place of course.
The next bit of advice leads on from the first: set yourself realistic goals. When you are comparing yourself against your expectations, you want them to be fair, or the same stressful and tormented consequences unfold - and we all know that isn’t going to help you achieve your goals.
I remember when I first read ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ and how it rang true with me. When in life has comparing actually been beneficial to you? I can assure you that for every single instance in which it has helped, it has made me feel miserable at least another 15 times. And it will do the same to you.
This example is about nursing training but this is advice that should stretch to every aspect of your life. Please don’t let the bad habit of comparing yourself to others make you miserable; never let any habit steal your joy. And if it is at the moment, do change it.
Lucy Cleden-Radford is Student Nursing Times’ learning disability branch student editor