I listened to a podcast in English about an experiment on a group of women who exercised in a gym to lose weight. The experiment found that if you were a woman, you were more likely to quit your exercise early if you were exercising next to a fit and sexy woman. So when you’re comparing yourself to a woman who is already successful getting the body that you want, you don’t feel motivated, you get depressed instead. You feel bad about your own body, get discouraged, and eventually stop exercising.
I wonder if it’s the same with learning a foreign language.
You compare your Korean speaking level to someone else who is doing better, and then you feel bad about yourself, wonder why you’re not as fluent, blame it to your living condition (“It must be because I don’t live in Korea!” “She is younger and has better memory than I do.”), you get depressed, very depressed that you find anything Korean-language-related induce negative feelings and even hurt your self-esteem, and then you can’t take it anymore. You quit. You feel like a loser but secretly, you also feel relieved. You think it’s about lack of motivation, but it’s not. Motivation is just interests, and you already know very well things that interest you. They’re things that made you learn Korean the first time and they’re still there, not going anywhere. It’s the negative feelings that come out of comparing yourself to someone else.
So… don’t compare yourself to others?
How can you do that?
I honestly don’t know. Hahaha. Sometimes you don’t even mean to compare, right? But you do it anyway, almost unconsciously, out of habit? After all, we all got educated at the same universal school system where they think comparing students is motivating, but it’s not. It just makes you feel stupid and slightly suicidal, actually.
I usually get over negative feelings out of comparing myself by thinking over them. I think over things that make me feel bad and then I answer my own questions. Eventually, I find my peace and then I go on and study Korean happily again.
For example, one time, it occurred to me that learning was not about winning and losing. There will always be people who speak better than I do, and there will always be people who speak worse than I do, and this will never change, so it became clear to me that I was feeling sad for no reason at all. Given my circumstances and my own effort, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and I’m doing very well.
I’m sure you are too. ###