You don’t have to still be in high school to be intimately familiar with the feeling and act of comparing yourself to others. It is hard not to, even when we feel confident in ourselves or our actions, we often reference what we see others doing and use it to judge our own self worth. That person in class who seems really cool has a boyfriend, so we start the mental spiraling. Should I be dating? Do I have to look like that girl to get attention? Am I into the right interests?Let’s start with delving into why we compare ourselves and some facts. This topic of comparing ourselves to others will be a multi-part series, as it is not a quick or easy subject to conquer. When you are in ninth through twelfth grade, and even in middle school, the social tension and pressure is through the roof, no matter if you are neurotypical or autisitic or just plain anxious. This is the period of time in which kids are trying to learn who they are, what is acceptable, what will give them the most social success. It requires a little bit of experimentation to discover the hidden rules and explicit rules and determine how we may want to interpret this information and adapt it into our lives. When it comes to being on the autism spectrum, there is a whole other level of difficulty in navigating the social waters. They are called “hidden” rules for a reason, after all. Further, those on the spectrum tend to think literally, self-focused (“Just Me” thinking, or having trouble putting yourself in other people’s shoes), and generalize. How does this affect comparing yourself to others? Well, one of the phrases that I have heard from working as a peer mentor the most is “everyone dates in high school,” or “everyone listens to rap and has a lot of friends.” It can be hard to look beyond the preconceptions we hold to truly reference how our peers are truly living. For example, the idea that everyone dates is insanely exaggerated-- in truth, a study from 2017 shows that the highest percentage of students who date frequently is high school seniors at 14%, and 49% of seniors reported not dating at all. It can be easy to see someone who seems popular and attribute all of their characteristics to the idea of “popular,” when in reality, it is not really that at all, or only a part of the reason or even part of the story. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says in her Ted Talk on the topic of one-sided stories and beliefs about somewhere “that there is never a single story about any place,” nor any person. To conclude this introduction to the series, I want to say that the key to gaining confidence and letting go of constantly comparing yourself to others and feeling less than is to try to be open and flexible. When getting more in depth with certain subjects of comparison (dating, appearance, interests), it may be impossible to break out of the mindset and habits that you reside in if you are closed off to learning more about the hidden aspects of social interactions and people in general. Nobody is perfect or without struggle.