I was working with a client recently, when the subject of career trajectory came up. She was feeling dissatisfied with her growth and was beginning to question whether she had made the right choices. “I look at my friends and most of them are getting promoted into great jobs and making a lot more money than me,” she said. ‘Their work seems exciting, they’re traveling, and I’m feeling like I don’t measure up.”
This is a trap that many of us fall into – comparing ourselves to other people, be it their careers, their looks, their lifestyles, or their accomplishments. If we see ourselves as falling short, we feel bad about ourselves. If we see ourselves as better than someone else, then we judge them and falsely inflate our own sense of accomplishment. Ultimately comparisons can cause us to be self-critical, focus on what we perceive is lacking in us or in others, and get us stuck in negativity. I must admit I am guilty of this sometimes too. I’ll see what other consultants and coaches are doing, read about their latest ventures, and start to wonder whether I should be doing the same thing or whether I am falling behind in some way. There’s a little bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) at play here and a little bit of envy thrown in there too most likely. No matter what is driving the need to compare, it is not going to serve you well.
FDR said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Instead of appreciating what we do have and who we are right now, comparing ourselves to others takes the joy of appreciation and gratitude away and brings in judgment and criticism. If you see yourself as somehow less than someone else, you feel bad about yourself and, as a result, you may doubt your abilities, hesitate to contribute your ideas, and negatively impact your credibility. If you see yourself as better than someone else, then you prop yourself up and, as a result, you may miss something worthwhile or forget to promote a good idea.
The next time you feel yourself falling into the trap of comparison, try these points instead:
- Get present – In yoga I learned that comparison is not a useful state of mind. If you are watching what others are doing and comparing yourself to them, then you’re not focusing on yourself in the present moment. In fact, comparing yourself now to yourself in the past is also self-defeating.
- See the whole picture – Steven Furtick said, “The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” Remember that one achievement or one failure does not define anyone. We all have challenges, fears, and weaknesses – and we don’t know the full story of someone else’s path. We only see the image that is portrayed so, as they say in 12-step programs, “Don’t compare your insides with someone else’s outsides.”
- Inventory your strengths – To ground yourself in your inner power, take stock of your strengths, skills, and positive qualities. If you are not sure what they all are, ask the people around you. Knowing this will bolster you when you start to negatively compare and , at least as -importantly, give you the self-motivation to bring your best to your current work, and really shine.
- Practice gratitude – Studies show that people who regularly note and express what they are grateful for are happier, experience less anxiety, have more satisfying relationships, and are more resilient. Develop a habit of gratitude to keep you focused on what is good and positive in your life, be it a daily or weekly gratitude journal, gratitude affirmations, regular expressions of gratitude, or meditation.
Comparing yourself to other people may seem like a good way to motivate yourself, but it actually focuses you away from what you really want for yourself and what is best for you in your own life. When you refocus on who you are, the journey you are on, and the choices that you are making for yourself, you can move forward with greater strength, clarity and happiness.
What have you found to be the consequences of comparing yourself to others? How do you prevent yourself from getting stuck in negative thinking?
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