adc theatre

Self Comparison

First of all, I am sorry about the absence. I’ve been super busy doing my dissertation. Also, because I am completely open with you all, I’m revealing that I had a job interview for a grad job in London on Wednesday, for a company that I really want to be a part of (can we all cross our fingers and hope I get a second interview plz xo).

I’m also just about to go home for a couple of days to begin celebrations for my 22nd birthday, but I’m back here in Cambridge for my actual birthday (the 13th)… I’m celebrating properly with my friends on the 18th though (dissertation deadline day!). So current plans for my actual birthday stand at going to the library during the day, and then going for a meal/drink with close friends.

With all of this happening, I’ve been having to work hard on the dissertation, which has in turn meant I haven’t written a lot, but I’m back this morning & wanting to talk to you about something: self-comparison.  Here I go:  

Throughout life we are in awe of many people. We may know these people personally, but we may also admire those distant, successful figures that we afford a kind of ‘celebrity’ status.

When I was 15, I developed a half-obsession with the figure Marilyn Monroe, truthfully because I wanted to look like her and exude the same, confident persona. I hadn’t even seen any of the films she had starred in, but it was purely her style that attracted my envy, and I spent a lot of time wondering if I was ever going to cocoon like a caterpillar, breaking free from adolescence a Monroe-esque butterfly.

A girl can dream, huh?

Monroe was a figure of success to an adolescent young girl, and since, there have been many other figures I have felt comparatively less successful in the wake of. These include various writers, businesswomen, models, but they also include people at university who I feel have ‘done’ so many other things outside of their degree.

For example, when I see pictures of people who have played for a sport here at Cambridge and been involved in a Varsity win against Oxford; when I see those who act in ADC Theatre shows; when I see someone as Head Editor of a student publication, or as an active member of the Union.

Comparatively, although I have been involved in these kinds of things in the past, I’ve always found it difficult to juggle with my studies, so I often haven’t kept things up, or gone for a ‘higher’ role within these activites. But it’s easy, when you see pictures of so many people being individually successful, to put oneself down in comparison, to think ‘I have only done [x]’. And while looking at these photographs on social media, it’s easy to feel horrible about what you have or haven’t done in the past.

Part of the reason I feel this way is through the medium I receive this news of other people’s success: photographs on social media. This medium distances the successful person from us, but it also creates another sense of distance. Social media distances other people’s success from us, so the success becomes seemingly impossible to acquire.

All of this only results in self-comparison, which in turn results in self-hatred, and sometimes I feel trapped within a bubble of self-deprecation.  

I went to the Fitzwilliam Museum earlier on this week. I go there when my brain feels a little overworked, when I need some time alone to clear my head. I felt like I needed to go to think about things, to organise my week mentally. I usually sit in the lobby for an extended period of time, looking up at the magnificent ceiling. It’s utterly mesmerising. But to get to the point:

Something I find myself thinking about a lot in galleries is the concept of the self-portrait. In the Fitz, I spent some time observing some self-portraits, and I thought about how we celebrate an artist’s ability to think about their own essence of being in such a way as to even begin to create a self-portrait. I thought about the emotions that are possibly poured into such a piece of art – what emotions towards the self constitutes in the creation of a self-portrait?

I couldn’t answer, but I thought about seeing the self as a subject. I thought that perhaps seeing oneself as subject erases these ideas of imperfections. When at life drawing sessions, the figure in front of me is an artistic subject, not something to be judged, compared. Perhaps the self-portrait is the same. 

The prospect of graduating in June, naturally, invites thinking about regrets, about ‘should have’/ ‘could have’ / ‘would have.’ Especially when applying for graduate positions, where reducing oneself to two sheets of paper becomes the norm, and your achievements are placed on a platform to be judged, compared with others. But in a very convoluted way, thinking about self-portraiture made me feel better about myself, and therefore about my ability to be successful in my own right.

We are all artistic subjects, ready and waiting to be drawn, painted, interpreted. There are no subjects ‘better,’ and we need to see ourselves in this light. What we view as imperfections, failures, mistakes, regrets, are in fact, none of these things. They are a part of our selves, and so shouldn’t be hidden; they don’t need to be concealed. Rather, they need to be embraced, accepted as part of the past and present. We are, essentially, alone in the control of our successes, and so holding onto past regrets only works to halt the progress of the future.

My regrets from my time here – e.g. not being in a Varsity sport match, not being head of a committee – are regrets that I actively have, I will admit. I understand that I had health issues preventing me from doing these things before, but it doesn’t make them any easier to forget. It is instead easier to allow these regrets to consume me during my time here, to affect my perception of my time here. However, essentially, Cambridge will be such a small section of my lifetime. It’s easy to see these regrets as a big deal while I am here, but who knows what I could go on to do in the future?

Self-confidence matters, and I’m not saying that this method will work with everybody, but sometimes, seeing myself as an artistic subject helps. Removing the tendency to judge, to compare with others, instead to only see the self, whole and complete, as something worth observation, contemplation. I used to only see myself as a measure of other people’s successes, but now I (mostly) only see myself, and my goals. It’s a work in progress, but then again, so am I.

- Sarah


My Week In Pictures - 


This week has been so busy, especially this weekend where I have had so many social things, so I’ve spent hours & hours in the library wishing I hadn’t had that G&T the night before (oops). But yeah - this weekend was HALLOWE’EN, and I had a bit of an unconventional weekend. It was my friends birthday on Friday and I got quite ~tipsy~ so actual Hallowe’en was quite a chilled day: I studied more of Hamlet for my essay this week in the library, watched Girton play rugby against Catz (St. Catherine’s College) (we won), had sushi with my best friend & went to the ADC Theatre to watch a production of Frankenstein with the girls. Even though I didn’t go to a Hallowe’en party or dress up (I had such a great idea for a costume as well) I had the best weekend, and yesterday I finished my weekly work so I went out 🎉. It’s been such a great weekend, and it’s been the best Hallowe’en I’ve had in years because it hasn’t involved queueing for a packed nightclub all dressed up & shivering from the cold - yay! 

- Sarah xoxo