Senior Speeches: Gabrielle Garner ’19

May 08, 2019


Instead of focusing on what someone else has accomplished, focus on the personal strengths of your own.

Each year, seniors and postgraduates at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.

Throughout the 2018-19 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.  

We as individuals are not defined by what other people accomplish, as much as we let ourselves believe it to be true. Too often, we compare ourselves to others. I used to believe I could never be as good as my sister. Falling into that trap was a limit I created, and it did not have to be there. When you’re the younger one, your actions and achievements are always going to be compared to the ones who came before you.

For as long as I can remember, I have been compared to my older sister, Jackie. Since I was little, she has been athletic, intelligent, beautiful, and most importantly, born first. That put a lot of pressure on me, and it doesn’t help that Jackie always sets ridiculously high standards. Today, she is a senior and the captain of the track team at UCLA, where she got in not only on her athletic ability but also on her merit.

Her accomplishments led me to believe that I also had to excel, especially in sports. I acted, not in benefit to myself, but always trying to maybe be as good as she was. I eventually discovered a passion for figure skating. My interest in this unique sport grew because it requires not only power and strength, but also grace and beauty. After years of skating, it became obvious that I had immeasurable talent. My skills grew, and I began competing in major competitions, but I still didn’t feel I compared to Jackie. One thought always invaded my mind: why am I still not as good as my sister? In high school, Jackie had been the best on her track team. She won every meet she competed in. It made me insecure. I wasn’t winning national titles in figure skating. I wasn’t getting the same recognition in my sport as my sister had with hers. I was ashamed.

It wasn’t until I got to Shattuck-St. Mary’s that I started to see things differently. Shattuck is home to many elite athletes, and this is an environment where I can thrive. I am extremely grateful for all the like-minded individuals here, and what they have taught me. Figure skating is an extremely difficult sport, unlike any other. Figure skating requires flexibility, agility, endurance, and most importantly, dedication. In addition, it is one of the most expensive sports there is. More importantly, only one out of five million figure skaters ever make it to the Olympics. This sport requires a lot more to “make it” than track. It really doesn’t make sense to compare the two.

When I looked at it from this perspective, I had not only admired my sport more, but I also had more appreciation for my success. I am currently competing at the highest level: senior. I have achievements that go far beyond the average figure skater, but the point is that it is no longer about comparing myself to others. Here at this school, I have a newfound confidence in myself and what I am capable of. The respect I have for myself has pushed me harder than trying to exceed my sister ever did.

Being the younger sibling was not something I could control, but how I responded to it was. Fate may have landed me in this position, but it was my own fault that I compared myself to Jackie all those years and saw myself as less. There is always going to be someone who is older than you, ahead of you, or better than you. Instead of focusing on what someone else has accomplished, focus on the personal strengths of your own. A little competition is healthy, but letting it upset you is toxic. And you can achieve a lot more once you start recognizing your own self-worth. All of us are individually different from one another, so we should let our own unique gifts and talents stand on their own.

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