At the start of my pre-veterinary journey, I could not have imagined I would be where I am today; newly accepted into my top vet school of choice and getting ready to start on the path to becoming a veterinarian.
I have always known I wanted to work with animals and contribute to wildlife conservation in some way, but I was never sure if I had what it took to get into veterinary school and accomplish my dream of becoming a wildlife or zoo veterinarian. This was not helped by me constantly feeling as though I needed to be doing everything in the same way and pace as my classmates. The comparisons I kept drawing between myself and others made me feel like I wasn’t good enough and didn’t have the skills to even get through veterinary school.
A lot of us in veterinary medicine have felt imposter syndrome and self-negativity when we compare ourselves to others. These ideas popped into my head even more after going to pre-vet club meetings and feeling as though everyone else was so far ahead of me.
I knew very early on in my undergraduate career, after struggling through some of my prerequisite courses, that my journey towards vet school was not going to be the same as a lot of my classmates. After taking exams and seeing how much better some of my classmates were doing with what seemed like a lot less effort or seeing people on the outside looking as though they had it all together, I started to feel like I was less deserving and not capable of going to vet school. I’m sure I and many others have also felt the embarrassing and sinking feeling that comes after receiving exam grades and having someone ask you how you did, when you in fact did not do well at all.
The sooner I learned we are not all the same and that’s ok, I was able to focus on what it was going to take for me personally to be the best candidate I could be for vet school. This involved a lot of self-reflection and realizing that instead of comparing myself to my classmates and putting myself down, I needed to instead be motivated by them. When I didn’t understand a topic, instead of beating myself up about it, I would work with others who understood the subject better. We don’t all learn things the same, which is fine, but we can never let this stop us from continuing to learn and improve.
One of the best ways I have been able to avoid comparing myself to others is by being very self-aware and catching myself when I even have a thought of self-doubt or comparison to someone else. I know I am passionate about animals and veterinary medicine and I deserved to have a seat at the table just as much as anyone else. Getting in my own head is not going to be the reason I am not going to be successful.
By learning very early in my pre-veterinary career that all of our journeys are different, I was able to focus on the thing that I am most passionate about, which is VETERINARY MEDICINE. Instead of focusing solely on having the best GPA, I dove into the many areas of veterinary medicine and animal care. These experiences included being an intern at my local zoo, working with a large animal veterinarian, and doing a veterinary externship in conservation medicine and One Health, just to name a few. Not comparing myself to others also allowed me to focus on my other passions that also helped me be unique, like playing the French horn in band and participating in my high school and college marching bands. These are just a few of the things that contributed to my diversity of experience when I applied to vet school.
When I started to see many veterinary students and veterinarians start to make Instagram accounts dedicated to their journey through veterinary medicine, I worried that I would fall back into my comparisons. But the very opposite happened; following many of these accounts showed me how to draw inspiration from others’ experiences instead of comparing myself to them. It allowed me to see the differences in everyone’s journey and see there is not just one way to get into this profession.
When I start veterinary school in the fall I know I will be going into it feeling much more confident in myself and my abilities because I know what makes me unique. There will be struggles, but comparing myself to my peers will do nothing for me but hold me back.
Instead of looking at what people around us have, we should be learning from each other and be inspired by our differences. No matter where our goals and passions lie, we need to realize we are not all going to be the same and are all on our own journey.
One of my favorite quotes I always try to remember when I catch myself slipping is this one from Theodore Roosevelt:
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”