Lately, I have been struck by how powerful the force of comparison can be.
When things are going well, your position may seem relatively privileged. When they aren’t so good, everyone else can appear to be enjoying effortless success. When I received my PhD funding at Manchester, I thought (for a fairly brief time) that I was set for life and my career would subsequently fall beautifully into place. However, on a bad day or after one of those rejections that I’ve discussed previously, it can feel like I’ve achieved very little since that point in life, whilst everybody else is storming ahead in a blaze of glory.
I think the output-focussed environment that academics often work in can exacerbate this tendency towards comparison. However, I also think that this is a largely unconstructive force. Others are just that: other. They are different to us, they have different talents, they have different aims in life, they have had different past experiences and will have different future experiences.
Experience has also taught me that successes and failures come to everyone. As such, I try to remember that one of these will, sooner or later, be followed by the other.