It's easy to get lost in the stories of others instead of our own.

Just like the fantasy novels we read, laden with seemingly heroic and perfect characters, or the TV shows we indulge in, overflowing with intense, intellectual mystery and romance, we love to lose ourselves in entertaining stories.

Yet, we don't just lose ourselves to media or books – we can find ourselves entranced by the stories of others.

At times, we may feel the lives we lead seem to be lacking something. We try our best to see what we may be missing. Depending on your perspective, you might think you're not as social as you want to be. On the other hand, it could be that you might struggle with academics.

Regardless of whatever you feel you're missing in life, be it a trait or something tangible, you make it your goal to reorganize yourself and journey towards a fulfilling life.

However, as social beings, we don't live lives of solitude. In order to fulfill our own goals, we have to work and interact with others.

As we talk and spend time with others, though, we find ourselves comparing our lives to others. Whether we consciously decide to do such comparisons or not isn't the problem – it's how we approach it.

When a person compares his or herself to others, the outcomes can vary. On one hand, the person may become aware of his or her shortcomings and work even harder to fill them in.

However, another possibility is that the person focuses instead on what he or she doesn't have.

As many of us can attest, our mind has the unscrupulous ability of making us over think such issues. It doesn't take much for a person to go from the former to the latter choice – especially in a society that stresses "perfection" from everyone, regardless of occupation.

For example, suppose you met someone who was successful in the job you wanted to do. After talking with him or her, you hear about the obstacles and skills needed in order to land your dream job.

When you hear about the difficulty in achieving such a goal, you evaluate yourself and see if you are truly up to the challenge. As you constantly think about what you need to do, you also realize what you haven't done and lack. The amount of stress that comes from this unintentional "self-depreciation" can be compounded by other factors in your life.

Consequently, you might see yourself as inadequate.

When you see yourself as flawed, you end up putting less effort into your life. Instead, in an ironic, escapist way, you look more towards the lives of others. You look at their stories and attempt to live the way they have – fulfilling, loved and successful.

The harsh truth, however, is that this does nothing for you. You end up wasting time on a fanciful dream that, somehow, your life will suddenly change for the better without your desire to put work into such change. Though engrossing yourself into the lives of others may offset your problems, it doesn't remove them.

Finding the strength to move your focus from the lives of others to your own is one that takes monumental dedication. After all, there's only one you, and many of everyone else – there's so much variety in everyone else, you may say, and just boring old you.

That's true; there is only one of you. But, unlike everyone else, you have the capacity to shape and mold your life. You don't – and shouldn't - have as much control on others as you have on yourself.

I don't have the right to say that you should change – only you have that. If you're given that opportunity though, take it. You only have one life to take control of, and better to have control than to be controlled.

Jan Urbano is a senior in biological sciences. He can be reached at jurbano@utk.edu.