March 17, 2014

Why You Shouldn't Compare Yourself To Others

This week's post comes from Christina Canters (@DesignDrawSpeak). She is passionate about helping design students become confident and effective communicators. I have been listening to Christina's podcast, Presentation Skills for Design Students, which provide tips and advice that can help you present your studio projects and communicate with clients in the workforce. You can find it at

Christina's guest post focuses on something that myself and others struggled in school: to not compare yourself to others. To NOT compare yourself to your peers is a challenging thing to do in a competitive environment like design school. It is a bad habit that is enervating and destructive. Christina's post offers valuable insight:

I sometimes follow a yoga DVD by a guy called Bryan Kest. It's hilarious; everyone in the DVD wears white lycra leotards and has 90s haircuts.

Anyway, at one point during a challenging pose, Kest says: "Just [stretch] as far as you need to. There's no need to go as far as the next person. Everyone has different life experiences that shape these bodies, these minds. No one is the same. How can we compare?"

I believe that Kest makes a valid point; one that can certainly be applied to us and our peers at school.

When you're such a tight-knit group, it's very easy to start comparing your work to that of your classmates. Maybe you know someone who is super talented at 3D modelling, or who does beautiful hand sketches, or seems to just come up with brilliant concepts every time.

When I was a student, I remember being in awe of other students who just seemed to produce so much more work than me. I would freak out, thinking that I wasn't working hard enough.

But then I realized: those students probably had no life outside school! Whereas I chose to prioritize exercising, eating well, sleeping and having some form of social life. Being the person I am with my own experiences, skills and priorities, I was producing work that was to the best of MY capabilities, not someone else's.

As Kest says: no one is the same, so comparing your skills, work and work habits to those of other students is a waste of your precious mental energy. Instead, focus your brain power on the following:

Work to your strengths.
I am not strong at 3D rendering, but I'm really good at Photoshop and making physical models. So I used those skills instead of wasting time getting frustrated with 3DS Max.
Listen to your tutor and produce the work required.Don't get sidetracked and stressed out by what your peers are producing. Some people either don't listen, or just like doing extra work and not sleeping!
Try to resist the peer pressure to pull all-nighters just because
"everyone else is doing it".

Find a system that works for you. For example, I can't work late at night. My brain turns to mush. So I would sleep at 11pm, then get up at 5am to keep working.
When it gets to presentation time, be proud of what you've achieved. Feel good knowing that you've done the best you can with the skills you have. And if you feel you haven't done your best? Use the experience to learn for next semester, and think about what you could do differently.

Remember, comparing ourselves to others is a futile exercise that only makes us feel inadequate and creates unnecessary stress. Be true to your strengths, your capabilities and your beliefs and you'll have a much more enjoyable and rewarding semester. I promise!

Good Grades does NOT a Good Designer Make
The Underdog Architecture Student's "10 Things" Response
Traits Architecture Students Must Have

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