Have you ever felt like you’re falling behind and you’re afraid there’s no room left at the top?
It’s as if other people are doing the very things you want to do — only they seem to be doing it much faster than you can.
In our hyper-connected world, it’s never been easier to get off track by comparing yourself to others. With some estimates reporting that adults are spending nearly two hours a day on social media, it’s no wonder creatives are finding it harder and harder to get things done.
Because time spent comparing yourself to others means precious time not spent on more productive and enjoyable things.
Comparing yourself to others often leads to self-doubt.
Constantly comparing yourself to others can fuel mean-spirited competitiveness versus collaboration.
Comparing yourself to others makes your self-worth dependent on the achievements of others. If they’re doing poorly compared to you, you feel good. If they’re doing better than you are, you feel bad. Do you really think it’s a good idea to make how you feel about yourself depend on how other people are doing?
Comparing yourself to others sucks the joy out of life.
Below you’ll find ten ways to stop comparing yourself to others.
1. Recognize You Are Incomparable
Why would you compare yourself to others, when you’re one of a kind? It may sound like a cliché, but the truth is that there’s no one else out there who’s exactly like you. Comparing yourself to others is dishonoring your uniqueness and your individuality.
After all, when you compare yourself to others you’re basically saying: “I should be more like them”. When you’re feeling down because you think that you’re coming up short, instead of telling yourself that should be more like so-and-so, tell yourself the following:
“I’m going to become a better version of myself”.
“I’m going to start living up to my potential.”
“I’m going to become the person I was meant to be.”
Life is about being the best that you can be, not about trying to become someone you’re not.
2. Realize that Comparisons Are Unfair
Life isn’t a level playing field, so it’s not really fair to make comparisons. Look at the following:
We begin at different starting lines. Let’s face it, someone born to a wealthy family with college educated parents starts off much further ahead in life than someone born to poorly educated parents living on welfare.
We’re all running a different obstacle course. Think of two obstacle courses: one has 5 obstacles on it and the other has 20 obstacles on it. Obviously, it’s much easier to run the first obstacle course. It’s almost a given that the person running that course will have a better finishing time than the person running the obstacle-ridden course.
We don’t all get the same breaks. I know people who stepped out of law school and walked straight into cushy jobs at the law firm where their mother or father was a partner. That’s certainly not a break I got. You can’t really compare yourself to people who have gotten more breaks than you have.
A lot of the time people are “ahead of you” in life simply because they’ve had it easier than you have: they started out further ahead, they’ve had to face less obstacles, or they’ve been given more breaks. Is it really fair for you to compare yourself to those people? No, it’s not.
3. Dance to the Beat of Your Own Drummer
Just as you’re incomparable, your journey is incomparable. The path that you follow toward your destination doesn’t have to be the same path that someone else is following, even if you’re both trying to arrive at the same place.
Maybe your path has more detours than their path. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that their path is better. The reason your path is longer could be any of the following:
You’re more curious than they are, and you got off the main path a few times to go take a look at something that caught your eye.
You’re bolder and more adventurous than they are. Perhaps they wanted to go down a different route a few times, but they were too scared to do it, so they missed out on some great experiences.
You’re taking the time to smell the roses. You’ll both end up at the same place, but although your journey will take longer, it will also be more enjoyable.
If someone is standing at the spot where you would like to be, instead of feeling bad because you’re not there yet, tell yourself that you’ll get there when the time is right for you. And when you do get to where they are now, you’ll be a better-rounded person than they are, and you’ll have better stories to tell.
4. It’s a Waste of Time
The time that you’re wasting thinking of others and comparing yourself to them is time that you could be using to improve yourself. Instead of spending forty minutes cyberstalking other people, use that time to do any of the following:
Learn something new;
Spend quality time with someone you love; or
Do something that recharges your battery.
Your time is sacred. Why waste it thinking of the achievements of others?
5. Count Your Blessings
I once read that jealousy results when you count the blessings of others instead of counting your own.
The next time you’re feeling sorry for yourself because your best friend’s career is advancing more quickly than yours, or because the people down the street just bought a car that you can’t possibly afford, shift your focus from what they have to what you have.
You do this by counting your blessings.
6. Do What You Can with What You Have
Maybe the person that you’re comparing yourself to does have talents which you don’t possess.
As an illustration, your co-worker might be more charismatic than you are and, therefore, better at closing deals and making sales. C’est la vie. Instead of pining for their gifts, identify your own gifts, and then do the best that you can with what you have.
7. Compete With Yourself
Let’s face it, we live in a society that’s obsessed with measurements: height, IQ, GPA, rank, and so on. And the people with the high numbers never let others forget how well they’re doing. It can be hard not to compare yourself to others when other people are intent on letting you know how well they’re doing.
However, you have to resist the urge to compare your numbers to theirs. Instead, compare your current numbers to your past numbers. Look at the following:
Instead of asking yourself if you’re making more money than your neighbor, ask yourself if you’re making more money now than you were last year.
Instead of comparing your career to the careers of the people you went to high school with, ask yourself if you have more job satisfaction now than you did the year before.
Instead of comparing your physique to that of the guy next standing next to you at the gym—who let’s everyone know how much he can bench press—ask yourself if you’re in better shape now than you were six months ago.
As long as you’re making progress, who cares how everyone else is doing. Instead of competing with others, compete with yourself.
8. Realize that You Can’t See the Whole Picture
When you look at other people you’re only seeing what they allow you to see. Keep in mind that you can’t see the whole picture. You don’t know what’s really going on underneath the surface, or behind closed doors.
As an illustration, I remember when I was in high school I knew a girl who had a fantastic figure. Later I discovered that she had an eating disorder. I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience yourself, maybe something like the following:
The glamorous woman living in your building who was always traveling and taking fancy vacations confided in you one day that she wished she had a husband and kids, like you do.
The couple you thought had a perfect marriage that ended up getting divorced.
The guy down the street with the Lamborghini in the driveway who started his own tech company had to file for bankruptcy.
No one’s life is perfect, regardless of how hard they try to make others think that it is. That person who you think has it all may just be really good at faking it and keeping up a façade. In fact, they may even be comparing themselves to you and thinking they’re coming up short.
9. Make Sure You’re Using the Right Metrics
Make sure that when you do measure how well you’re doing, that you measure the things that are important to you, instead of applying the metrics that others think are important. Here are some examples:
Maybe your parents are always pushing you to make more money, so you can be rich like your cousin. But the reality is that, as long as you can pay for what you need, money isn’t that important to you. What’s important to you is helping others. So, measure how well you’re doing based on how many people you’re helping, not based on your net worth.
Maybe your son has a friend who’s always getting new toys, and you’re tempted to think that you’re falling short because you can’t buy all that stuff for your kid. However, you passed down a promotion at work, so that you could spend more time with your son. So, measure your success as a parent based on the amount of quality time that you’re spending with your child, not based on how many toys you can buy him.
Maybe there’s a girl at your gym who wears a size zero, and you’ve always been curvy. So stop measuring yourself based on how much you weigh or what size of clothes you wear; instead, measure yourself by using metrics related to health – your waist to hip ratio, your cholesterol level, your blood pressure, and so on.
Don’t let other people push you into comparing yourself to them based on the metrics that they think are important. Instead, when you want to gauge how well you’re doing, choose your own metrics based on the things that are important to you.
10. Use Other People as Inspiration
Now that I’ve written over 1750 words on why you should stop comparing yourself to others and how to do it, I’m going to do the exact opposite. I’m going to encourage you to compare yourself to others. However, you’re going to turn this into a positive.
If you look around and you notice that there are certain people who are doing better than you are—these people can be your friends, co-workers, peers, and so on–, use this as inspiration to try harder yourself.
In addition, you can use them as a role model. Ask yourself: What are they doing that I’m not doing? How can I learn from them? How can I replicate their success?
That is, instead of despairing because someone else is more successful that you are, use the comparison as motivation to improve.
Base on everything we discussed, what’s the single most important action you can take right now to support your happiness and growth? Leave a comment below and let me know.