Impostor syndrome, procrastination, perfectionism – the great wonders of pursuing an education, right? Oftentimes, students begin comparing themselves with others, seeing how their classmates might be more successful or steady in both their personal and professional lives. But does it mean they are not enough?

Woman shrugging
✅ AI Essay Writer ✅ AI Detector ✅ Plagchecker ✅ Paraphraser
✅ Summarizer ✅ Citation Generator

Key Takeaways:

  • Constantly comparing yourself to others can lead to unnecessary pressure and stress.
  • In higher education, most students are average by definition. This doesn’t mean they lack talent or potential.
  • You need to find a balance between academic work and personal life. Progressing steadily without burning out is often more sustainable and valuable.

One of the users on Reddit decided to ask the community about an uneasy feeling. They thought they weren’t reaching the necessary bar for a PhD student, so they went on the forum to get some support and ask for opinions.

The Myth of Perfection in Academia – Who Is an Average Student?

There’s a big misconception that if you’re pursuing a PhD or any higher education, you have to always be at the top of your class. This belief can pile on a lot of unnecessary pressure and stress. But let’s be real—it’s impossible for everyone to be the best, and being average is perfectly fine.

In higher education, most students are average by definition. This doesn’t mean they aren’t talented or capable. It’s just how things naturally spread out in any group. This doesn’t take away from the value or potential of these students at all.

“Most students are average, that’s the definition of the word lol.”

The pressure to be exceptional can lead to serious burnout and mental health problems. Many students were top of their class before, but it’s unrealistic to expect to always be the best in a super competitive environment like a PhD program. You need to remember that being average, especially in such a tough setting, is completely okay.

“Just because you’re pursuing a PhD does not mean you have to live and die for school.”

Being an average student often means finding a good balance between your academic work and other parts of your life. It’s about making steady progress, even if you’re not always at the top. This steady progress is actually really valuable and often more sustainable. It lets you work hard without burning out. And guess what? Being average doesn’t stop you from achieving your goals. Many students who weren’t at the top of their class have gone on to have great careers and happy lives. Academic ability is just one piece of the puzzle. Skills like teamwork, communication, and problem-solving are just as important, if not more so, in the job market.

So, the idea that you need to be the best in academia is just a myth. It’s perfectly fine to be an average student. What really matters is setting your own goals, working steadily towards them, and keeping a healthy balance in life. As long as you’re making progress and learning, you’re on the right track.

Comparing to Others Is A Harmful Habit with Lots of Sacrifices

Constantly comparing yourself to peers can be really harmful, because – believe it or not – it often leads to feeling inadequate and lowers your self-esteem.

“You’re doing just fine, stop comparing! Some projects are just genuinely slower and there’s not much you can do about it.”

This really hits home; everyone progresses at their own pace and it’s perfectly fine. Comparing yourself to others can be a slippery slope to nowhere good since it brings nothing but stress to you. Yes, some might say that jealousy and comparison are more motivational than anything else, but let’s be honest – when was the last time you were genuinely motivated by such things and not bogged down? Exactly.

Now, let’s talk about the sacrifices that come with extraordinary academic achievements. Long hours of study, missing out on social activities, and dealing with high stress levels are common. As someone put it:

“You’re giving too much credit to people. Being in academia for several years now I came to learn that one doesn’t simply become extraordinary in academia being healthy.”

This makes you wonder if the sacrifices are really worth it. If you are flat-out thinking “no” or even contemplating them, then there is your answer. Striving for excellence is great, but it’s important to check if these sacrifices match your personal goals. Many people talk about success, but it’s the many failures we don’t see, and that’s why we tend to think some have it easier than us.

“No one talks about the student who burns out trying to be better than perfect. No one talks about the student who graduates, gets a good industry job, has a family, lives happily, and never publishes again either.”

So, you need to figure out what success means for you. If chasing academic greatness leads to burnout and unhappiness, it’s worth rethinking that path. Remember, you have to ask yourself what you are pursuing your degree for and if your program and committee align with that. It’s about finding your own path and what makes you happy.

How to Set Individual Goals and Personal Success

Individual goals and definitions of success can be very different from one person to another. What might be a significant achievement for one person could be less important to someone else. So, let’s outline the main things you need to know when formulating your desired path.

  • Start by reflecting on what truly matters to you.

Ask yourself why you’re pursuing a certain path and whether it aligns with your values and interests. It’s important to set goals that are meaningful to you personally, not just ones that others expect you to achieve. Consider what brings you satisfaction and fulfillment. This self-reflection can help you identify what you truly want to achieve and why it matters to you, setting a strong foundation for your goals.

  • Break down your goals into smaller, manageable steps.

This makes them less overwhelming and easier to track. For example, if your goal is to complete a research paper, set milestones like finishing the literature review, drafting the introduction, and so on. Each smaller step should be clear and specific, making it easier to measure your progress. This helps you stay motivated by providing a sense of accomplishment as you complete each step, and it keeps you focused on what needs to be done next without feeling overwhelmed by the bigger picture.

  • Regularly review your progress and be flexible.

It’s okay to adjust your goals if your priorities change. Life is dynamic, and what seemed important a year ago might not be as relevant now. Reevaluate your goals periodically to make sure they still align with your current situation and aspirations. This might involve setting new targets or altering your timeline. Flexibility allows you to adapt to new circumstances and keep your goals relevant and achievable. You make sure that your goals continue to reflect your evolving priorities and context by staying open to change.

  • Don’t forget to celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they seem.

Each step forward is progress and brings you closer to your larger objectives. Celebrating your successes boosts your motivation and reinforces positive behavior. It’s important to acknowledge your hard work and effort, even for minor milestones. This can be as simple as taking a moment to reflect on your progress, sharing your achievements with friends or family, or rewarding yourself with a small treat. Recognizing your accomplishments will maintain your enthusiasm and commitment to your goals.

Setting individual goals is about finding what success means to you and working steadily toward it. You can create a path that is fulfilling and uniquely yours by reflecting on your values, breaking down tasks, reviewing progress, and celebrating wins.

Opt out or Contact us anytime. See our Privacy Notice

Follow us on Reddit for more insights and updates.

Comments (0)

Welcome to A*Help comments!

We’re all about debate and discussion at A*Help.

We value the diverse opinions of users, so you may find points of view that you don’t agree with. And that’s cool. However, there are certain things we’re not OK with: attempts to manipulate our data in any way, for example, or the posting of discriminative, offensive, hateful, or disparaging material.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Register | Lost your password?