Comparison is the thief of joy – especially in such an intense and highly demanding environment that the third best veterinary school in the world can cultivate.
When I first began my degree back in September one of the main challenges I faced was comparing myself to both my peers and my past self. That little voice in the back of my head put an immense pressure on my mind that I was not good enough, was not working hard enough and did not care enough about my degree. Feeling insecure in my own commitment to what I had already worked so hard to achieve really shook my confidence in the first semester I spent here at Edinburgh. Talking to various friends and vet students in higher years I have found this is to be normal. This newfound doubt stemmed from multiple different sources, and I have had to deal with each of them individually to protect my mental health.
The main comparison I would make was how well I was doing compared to the other students in my year. If I didn’t know the answer to a question asked in online lectures and 20 answers immediately popped up from other students, or when I saw constant messages popping up in the group chat over the weekend asking whether people had completed this assignment or the amount of work they had done, self-doubt would immediately start to creep in. I started to tackle this by muting the group chat and only going on it when I needed to ask a question or once a day to check if anything important had been said. It is very easy to not allow yourself the same grace you allow others and so, when I felt like I was falling behind during lectures, I started trying to speak to myself the same way I would speak to a friend that was struggling. Not making excuses but also not holding myself to an impossibly high standard.
The other comparison I was making was between that of my past self and my current self. I was comparing the time I had to work when I was in sixth form to the time I had now. What I was forgetting was I now had additional responsibilities compared to three months ago. Moving away from home, cooking for myself, and managing my time more independently added pressure to my life that was not previously there. I needed to adjust my expectations of myself and the requirements I made of myself accordingly. I am still working on that today and finding the balance between staying afloat at university whilst simultaneously enjoying my first year, has been difficult and is ever evolving.
Comparison will always be present, whether in your personal, social, or work life and it can be brutal. The difference is how loud you allow that voice to become in your head; getting it to quiet down and let your rational thinking take over is a mean feat. Your experience at vet school will rely on you being kind to yourself, so if that means muting a group chat or refusing to share test scores or spending more time around people who aren’t vet students then don’t feel guilty about that. Mental health comes first; vet school comes second. No matter how wrapped up in the bubble of vet school you may feel don’t forget to take a breather every once in a while and let go of some unrealistic expectations.