Time for some unsolicited (from you, dear reader) advice. I was recently texting with an excellent student of mine. He's a freshman (well, now a sophomore) and had some concerns. Here, I'll let him speak for himself:
"Sigh. Professor! It has been stressful ! I'm no Johnathan who knows and loves car. And I'm no Sophie who has high gpa and minoring in EECS. I know students should stop comparing but all I know is I'm hardworking but also trying to enjoy college! Not sure how to set my mind free from this."
Ouch. Been there, done that. So I tried to provide a bit of perspective that I've managed to gather together over the years. Please realize that these are only my thoughts and your mileage may vary. But, perhaps, some of it might prove helpful. Here's my response:
"It's hard not to compare - that's built into us. But what you might try to do is not compare yourself to your friends but to the person you'd like to be. Think about what kind of person would please you to BE and ask if you're there yet. (Hint - you'll never get there ... if you're doing it right). And when you see the areas that you haven't yet mastered, you work on those. Especially your weak areas. Those are the ones that'll show the biggest gains when you master them. Continuous effort to bring yourself into perfect focus.
Take my cartooning, for instance. In one metric, I've succeeded. I'm publishing around the world at the top of the professional venues. So, am I done? Nope.
I'm always looking at others work and asking if I like what they're doing or not. And if yes, why and can I use that to improve my own?
But as far as others, I just try to be as happy as I can be for my colleagues (competitors) when they find success. And then I get back to working to beat them in the future. But in a positive way.
All I can guarantee you is that Johnathan and Sophie feel EXACTLY the same as you do, perhaps with regard to different particular issues, but they have the same concerns/worries.
Totally, totally normal. We KNOW ourselves so it's easy to see our own shortcomings. But we don't so easily see those of others.
If it makes you feel better, I went through my academic career wondering when someone was going to realize I didn't really know what the hell I was doing. It's that way for everyone (except psychopaths :-)"
(Names changed to protect the innocent!)