Have you ever looked at somebody else and thought, “they have it all together…perfect life, family, career, and security,” then you took a look at yourself and suddenly you feel insignificant, unaccomplished, maybe even jealous?
The truth is, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have the urge to compare ourselves to others on occasion. The problem is you’re always going to find somebody that is going to be better if you look hard enough.
When you start playing the comparison game, you’re always going to lose.
The genesis of comparison
I’m really passionate about this topic because I’ve always believed that insecurity was the genesis of comparison. When you’re not rooted in who you are, it becomes very easy to start looking at other people’s lives and begin to feel dissatisfied about your own.
Insecurity can stem from a number of things like rejection, lack of confidence, social anxiety, or a constant quest for perfection. The trick is learning to identify those areas that are triggering your insecurity and learn how to combat them with positive reinforcement, like from family and peers, setting realistic goals for yourself to build your confidence, and being willing to step outside your comfort zone so you can stretch yourself and grow.
Comparison feeds impatience
Remember back in grade school when one of your friends would get the latest new toy for Christmas and you’d get, well–socks and underwear? (Thanks Mom and Dad!)
We’ve been playing the comparison game since we were little. Today, I think it’s even easier for people to be tempted to play. You’re bombarded with images of your friends on social media living it up, going on vacations, and having amazing successes, but you’re only seeing a post, not their whole story.
You start to doubt your own accomplishments, you get frustrated when things aren’t happening as quickly, and you get anxious and frustrated. Let’s face it, we live in an instant gratification society, full of messages that tell us that we need it now, and playing the comparison game feeds that even more.
Research on contentment suggests that up to 40% of our happiness is based on current life events. It’s no wonder how easily you can get roped into playing the comparison game when you’re constantly basing your satisfaction on what’s happening to you in the moment.
Remember the best things in life worth pursuing aren’t going to come that quickly. Don’t settle for a participation trophy. Winners know they have to work for it to earn it and in the end, it means so much more.
Comparison breeds apathy
For me, I love to celebrate when people I care about find success. I know how hard they’ve worked to get there and it’s gratifying for me to see them reach a milestone that they’ve earned.
But when you start to play the comparison game, you look at other people’s success as a deterrent. You start to feel discouraged that you’re never going to reach the goals you set for yourself, so you give up or you just don’t care anymore. You adopt a “why bother” mentality that bleeds into everything you’re doing and then you just become stale.
Here’s the thing. You were created for a purpose. It’s not for this person, or that person – it’s for you specifically! Stop basing your idea of success on someone else’s achievements. Their timeline is not your timeline. You have your own life to live with its own purpose. Discover what that is and start working towards it.
Remember no successful person ever rose to the top of their game by being apathetic!
Comparison triggers envy
Let’s say you’ve been working for this company for the last 5 years without a promotion. You have another colleague in the department who does roughly the same job functions as you, but he’s just been promoted after only being there for the last 2 years.
Now as you start to play the comparison game, the little green envy monster starts to creep in along with a bunch of other excuses. “Maybe my boss just doesn’t like me,” “Maybe I’m just not as smart as he is,” and so on.
Take a step back and do a self-assessment of where you’re at and why you’re feeling this way. Start looking at what you can do to make yourself more promotable, rather than envying somebody else’s rise to success.
Remember the story of Cain and Abel? Cain and Abel both brought their offerings to God, but God looked with favor on Abel’s offering instead of Cain’s. This drove Cain to envy and anger, eventually killing Abel. Then God punished Cain to be a wanderer for the rest of his days.
Playing a comparison game driven by envy is only going to lead to discouragement, resentment, and wandering through life unsatisfied. Having envy will only make you miss out on those important people and things you should be thankful for in life.
Comparison triggers regret
Sometimes people can look at somebody else’s success and start to replay the past in their head, second-guessing their decisions and thinking about the “what if” instead of focusing on the now.
They can start to play the victim, blaming other people, or some other external factor for their situation and start dreaming of alternate scenarios where life might have turned out differently if they made different choices or went down a different path.
But you see, those dreams aren’t the ones you need. They’ll never come to fruition.
Focus on the present. Surround yourself with people who can help you create new memories and instead learn from past mistakes, don’t dwell on them. Fix it and move on.
Comparison steals joy
I’m a very positive person because I know who I am. I know what my strengths are, I know what my weaknesses are and I know the areas I need to work on to continue to improve myself.
When you play the comparison game, you’re always setting yourself up for disappointment because you’re trying to measure yourself up to somebody else with an imaginary yardstick that is completely inaccurate, and guess what, you’ll never be happy.
Comparison adds no value or fulfillment to life. It’s only a distraction keeping you from becoming who you’re supposed to be. Commit to growing a little bit each day. Celebrate those little advancements you’re making instead of thinking about the big picture all the time. That’s what you should be measuring.
Coke is not Pepsi
There were times when people would ask me if I had basketball heroes that I tried to emulate growing up and my answer was always no. There were players like Jordan and Johnson that I admired and respected, but I never wanted to be them. I needed to be “me.”
You see, the ones who are grounded in who they are use their skills and talents to stand out, not to imitate someone else. Coke is not Pepsi. They can compete on the same playing field, but they are two different tastes and each one is successful in their own right.
Bottom line, no one can be you! You are unique and wonderfully made and comparison will never help you get you to the realization of who you can become.
What to do now?
First, you need to change your mindset. That means instead of comparing, look for the positive in somebody’s circumstances and adopt a spirit of encouragement, rather than focusing on your own shortcomings. Learn to accept your own differences and talents and use them to your advantage, rather than selling yourself short.
Find your emotional kryptonite. (I love this idea!) Discover what those feelings are that you try to avoid and learn how to tolerate them. People tend to avoid negative feelings, but learning to identify them can unlock areas for growth.
Unplug. Stop scrolling. Take a walk. Try to get back into your own headspace and figure out what’s distracting you, rather than being focused on what’s happening in your social feed.
Look for inspiration instead of comparison. Use somebody’s achievements to motivate you to do more. To up your game and figure out those areas of improvement you can make so you can find success in your own way.
Define your own version of what happiness is in your life and run with that. What is going to make you feel fulfilled and accomplished in life? Be content and use the gifts that God gave you. Refine them, grow them, and figure out how to make an impact on other people.
If you’re not where you want to be, change your circumstances, do something different to adjust your trajectory. You are not stuck. You are not firmly cemented in your life because that’s just who you are or what you’ve been dealt with. You can change your narrative.
Former NFL player, Tim Hiller has a quote that feels very applicable here. “Don’t compare your beginning to somebody else’s middle.” I love this! This is especially true for entrepreneurs who are just starting out. Your journey is going to look a lot different than somebody you’re following. Your successes and failures are not going to be the same. You need to have your own set of wins.
If you play the comparison game your whole life you’re going to reach the end of the second half and realize you spent all this time trying to measure up to expectations you put on yourself that weren’t valid. Be you!
Stop comparing and start playing a game you can win.
Listen to the latest episode of my podcast, Betting on Yourself. Make sure to subscribe to my email list to stay connected with me and never miss an update!