Articles, Mental Health

How to One-Up Harvard

People love to speak about success and the tumultuous pathway leading up to it.

I was talking with a friend about Model United Nations and prestigious scholarships and I mentioned the fact that I would love to attend Harvard.

His response was simple: “And then what? How do you one-up Harvard?”.

My answer was that I would find more ways to feel accomplished in the workplace, that I would feel passion for the profession of the law, that I would love what I did, but a voice in the back of my head told me he was right.

I have craved for success all of my life and have been through it many times. I’ve failed as well, and I’ve always felt the need to do better; to be better no matter any previous outcome.

In my family, the word “proud” isn’t used very often. Grandparents, aunts and parents tell you good job, but the follow up always includes something along the lines of “keep going!”. That’s fine and all, as the intention behind that phrasing is most likely a positive incentive; it’s meant to be encouraging. Except, it often is not. Whenever I get a great grade, whenever I get a job, whenever I am rewarded for anything I do, I immediately ask myself what’s next, and everyone else seems to ask the same of me.

People love to speak about success and the tumultuous pathways leading up to it, but very rare or those that reveal the intricacies of the following moments. People may live it differently. However, I think a consensus can be made on the fact that it isn’t always satisfying, because the need to maintain and repeat success quickly catches up to you. No matter what engraved gavel you are given, or opportunities you manage to be awarded; it feels like you need to be better. I’ve met so many people who like me feel this strong desire to succeed, who work with every bone in their body to achieve just that. The truth is, we’re all exhausted.

Now obviously, I am not advocating for giving up, or advocating against self-improvements. That’s not the moral of this story.

The moral of this story is that resilience comes from within. We are all so influenced by external factors that dictate what we should be doing next, when really, following only that external pressure only generates more anxiety, and more self-doubt. Something that matters to you probably has very little impact on others. Something that makes you smile and cry of joy might bring up little to no reaction from peers, colleges and families, and that shouldn’t change anything about what you feel you’ve accomplished.

Resilience can even come from personal ego if that’s what it takes. Do things to please yourself, not others. If a project you used to be involved with does not stimulate you anymore, or if you find something else you want to spend your time on, do that instead. There is no need to be the best at everything you do, and you are allowed to do things for yourself. Passion is even often encouraged by employers or admissions officers, and a variety of interests does not necessarily translate to bad decision making.

Be proud of yourself and don’t wait for others to be. In fact, when someone tells you they’re proud, say “I know”.


Written by MWR Executive Véronique Leblanc

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