Low Self-Esteen Equals High Standards?

I am a moderately insecure person when it comes to academics. In comparison to other students in my class who have already been accepted to prestigious institutions such as Northwestern, Harvard, Duke, West Point, and MIT, I don’t see myself as super smart or anything out of the ordinary. How could I? How could I have the audacity to even think that I am someone worth looking at? Sure, I’m enrolled in six AP classes, so are 50+ other people. I also hold a leadership position at my school, along with 20+ other people. I play a varsity sport, but I’m not good enough for colleges to care. My insecurities are to the point where I disregard anyone who isn’t as smart or ambitious as I am. In my mind I think, “If I can do it, why can’t you?” I don’t think that I’m better than everyone else, but rather I expect everyone to be better than I am. So when I say, “How can you not get this?” It’s not out of arrogance but out of honest surprise.

At the same time, I accept that there are people smarter than me. It’s humbling. In addition, I believe people should have more humility when it comes to academics. So what if you’re in the top 5% of your class? No one will care when you’re in college because everyone will be approximately at the same intellectual level as you. Therefore, in some ways it’s ok to have a low self-esteem because it prevents a person from ending up with egg on his/her face, figuratively and literally speaking. Not that I would ever throw an egg at someone’s face… That would just be silly, but I digress.

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Here’s a collage of my friend and I during our last season of high school swim. 🙂

Tell me what you think. Is it possible for a person to have a high self-esteem and still be humble about where he/she stands with other people? Does low self-esteem equal high standards? And have you ever had the same problem as me with deciphering between the two?

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One thought on “Low Self-Esteen Equals High Standards?

  1. Thomas says:

    Hm, I think what’s important is keeping everything in perspective, especially because you go to a high school in Northern Virginia. Here we have one of the richest education systems in the country, with tons of clubs and over 20 AP classes offered for free. Attending William & Mary (and I guess going to college in general) has opened my eyes to how a lot of other students did not have the privileges we do – one of my friends who’s super smart and was valedictorian of her class only came in with 3 credits, because her school could only afford to offer 2 AP classes. So knowing that there are a ton of people who are way way worse off than you in terms of intelligence and opportunity will keep you humble.

    Also, no matter where you are in life, you will feel the temptation to compare yourself to others. In high school, you’ll worry about who’s getting into what college, in college, you’ll worry about who’s getting the highest GPA or who’s the most well-liked. In the end to keep yourself sane (at least this is what I do) is to try and come up with things you value and then compare yourself only to yourself. For example, in high school I felt like I was one of the best writers, but when I came to college my writing was (and still is) torn apart by my professors. It’s tempting for me to compare myself to all of my peers who get better grades than I do or who are doing more things than I am, but how would that help me? All I can do is revise my essays, talk to my professors, and practice writing more – if I improve myself, it doesn’t matter how other people do, because I know I’m doing my personal best and that’s what matters to me.

    I feel like self-esteem and high standards, while not mutually exclusive, are two different things. As a perfectionist I always maintain high standards, but you have to know when your standards are hurting you more than they’re helping you. One step at a time is the way to go.

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