Comparing ourselves to others is something we do from an early age. Whether it’s the boy who’s got the bigger, better toy car or the girl who is ‘prettier’. This carries into adolescence and early adulthood, where social standing enters the comparison—who’s cooler, smarter?—and from then on many of us tend to spend the rest of our lives placing our own achievements and successes—both personal and professional—next to others’.
The age of social media has only made this practice more pronounced. Every day, we’re bombarded with images and videos of other people—whether they be friends, colleagues or celebrities—seemingly living better, richer and more exciting lives than our own. Look at that—Jim has just bought a new car; Sally is poolside in a Tuscan villa with the rest of her attractive family; someone you went to school with has just been made CEO of a major bank. We look at our own lives and think, “What am I doing?”
This, of course, is a huge mistake.
Firstly, most of what you see on social media is an illusion—we only ever post about the best aspects ourselves and our lives. No one broadcasts their failures and personal struggles, so the content you’re consuming (and comparing yourself to) is completely skewed.
Secondly, you are unique. Nobody’s experience of life is going to be the same as yours. Each one of us has been born into different circumstances and blessed with different talents, personalities and outlooks—comparing your journey to others, both its ups and downs, only does yourself a disservice.
There is nothing wrong with having people you admire and look up to, but measuring your achievements against others is not only damaging to your self-esteem, it can affect your motivation to succeed on your own terms. You might look at someone from the same university or social circle as you who’s become this great ‘success’ then look at where you are in your life and decide, “Why bother?”
There is also a fatal loop involved in comparison. Unfortunately it is human nature to never be satisfied—we’re always chasing the next thing—and so in this game there’s always going to be someone better off than you. Multi-millionaires would like to be billionaires, and billionaires are always squabbling over that extra one or two billion that’ll make them the richest in the world. It never ends.
So, for your own peace and mental health, here are fours things to consider the next time you compare yourself to someone else:
Count your blessings
To be fair, this involves some comparison, except in this case you’re reminding yourself how lucky you are and how far you’ve come. Acknowledge how fortunate you are to have a healthy body and mind, a roof over your head and that you don’t have to worry about where your next meal is coming from. And even though work can be stressful and unpleasant at times, there are millions of people in the world who dream of a life just like yours.
Remember your the journey
Make a habit of regularly reflecting on your life—personal tests you have passed, obstacles you’ve overcome, challenges you have set yourself and conquered, as well as the successful, meaningful relationships you have forged. All of this has essentially been done on your own!
As much as it feels like it sometimes, life is not one big competition. If you’re aware of your strengths, know how and where to channel your abilities and are largely fulfilled by your personal and professional life, that’s all you really need to concern yourself with.
If you’re actively pursuing your own meaning, you’re already a success.
Don’t knock others
Envy is a terrible thing. It can cause you to criticise and gossip about someone you see as better than you. Not only does this expose you as insecure, it’s a very unhealthy emotion.
Instead of resenting someone else’s success, step back and admire it, support it and encourage it. By embracing and acknowledging the achievements of others in your social circle, you could potentially make new, inspiring friends, and broaden your network—all of which will only bolster your own journey.
Celebrate your strengths
Comparisons usually result in focusing on what you’re lacking. Turn this negativity around by reminding yourself of your unique talents. There’s no need to brag about them on Instagram, but quietly acknowledging and understanding your abilities will put your own successes into perspective and inspire you to accomplish all that you’re capable of.