Graduating is a monumental moment in every student’s career path. It’s the reward at the end of the journey they’ve been striving for and represents a new beginning. But there’s nothing more crushing than trying to offer your friend a heartfelt congrats when you don’t mean it. Being a postgraduate will involve a lot of fake “well done”’s, and many often struggle with comparing their post-grad progress with their peers. Envy can quickly turn into something toxic, so graduates must learn how to self-validate.
Why Do We Become Jealous? (Envy vs Jealousy)
Firstly, it’s incredibly normal to feel envious of your peers and their paths after you finish, as chances are their paths are not going to be the same as yours. Because of how social groups work, it’s only natural to use your friends to measure your own progress. However, this can be one of the biggest contributors to post-graduate anxiety. In 2019, it was measured that 49% of students who were surveyed said their mental health declined after leaving university (via the City Mental Health Alliance).
Battling with wanting to feel proud of your peers and feeling guilty that you can’t be is natural when finishing education, especially if you idolise certain people. But this can start to manifest into jealousy if your self-esteem and confidence considerably drop. So, what’s the difference?
Although many think the two are synonymous with each other, they have very different meanings. While they both stem from desire, envy is simply the wanting of what someone else has. The desire to possess a certain thing or live a certain life has an element of admiration. Jealousy, on the other hand, is deeply rooted in low self-confidence and makes someone feel threatened by what someone else has.
So, putting this into a context where you’re reflecting on yourself and your peers, it’s important to identify which one you’re feeling:
Scenario: You and your friend, Jordan, graduate together. Jordan easily gets a job in a top company because of a strong professional network. You, lacking such a network, envy Jordan’s ability to effortlessly make connections and want the same opportunities.
Scenario: You and your friend, Alex, graduate together. Alex lands a great job that you had also applied for but didn’t get. Instead of feeling happy for Alex, you feel jealous because you’re worried about losing out on a job opportunity.
How to Cope with Post-Grad Pressure
If you can relate to any of the examples above, especially those related to jealousy, you might need to come up with a new plan. It can be easier to dwell on what life could’ve been and “what-ifs”, but the counterproductivity will only make it worse:
Limit Your Social Media Use
Social media platforms have become powerful tools for sharing achievements and milestones, but they can also be misleading about the realities of life after graduation. Scrolling through curated feeds filled with job promotions, travel adventures, and seemingly perfect lives is bound to leave anyone subdued. But the beauty of social media is that it hides all the downfalls, rejections and imperfections that come with all the good. Take everything you see with a pinch of salt and have some self-control if you begin to get obsessive.
Set Personal Goals
Being realistic sounds simple, but it’s one of the best ways to re-shift the focus onto yourself. Setting achievable and in-sight goals that you’re willing to strive to reach will help you fuel some of that drive back into your own life and get you back on track to a path you’re proud of.
Build Your Own Support Network
If you’re jealous of the people that your peers have surrounded themselves with, then it’s time to find yourself a new social group. Take advantage of other colleagues, mentors and even professors and build them into your own support network. Instead of sitting back, you can reap the benefits of having a knowledgeable network on your side and put your name into social circles.
Invest in Self Care
One of the biggest factors that these covetous feelings stem from is low self-confidence and insecurities. Looking for validation in others can be an easy way to become disappointed, so learning to validate yourself will stop you from searching for success in others. Taking time for self-care, like practising mindfulness, exercising regularly, or enjoying hobbies, not only makes you more emotionally resilient but also gives you a real sense of happiness. When you prioritise yourself, you’re less likely to compare yourself to others because your focus shifts from seeking approval from outside sources to finding contentment within yourself.
Peer jealousy doesn’t have to be something you need to suffer with constantly. Comparison is natural, but it’s important to recognise what qualities you have in your journey that the other person doesn’t have, so you’re able to feel unique where you are. Life beyond graduating is a scary experience, simply because you’ve never dealt with anything like it before.
If you’re looking for some more advice on life after graduating, you can get in contact here.