5 Ways to Resist Career Comparison and Enjoy Where You Are
Between 2017–2019 I was miserable career-wise. I would spend my commutes, my lunch hour, well, pretty much all my spare time trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I would painfully question myself over and over about what I wanted to do and what next step I needed to take.
At that point, I was 22 and hungry to succeed and of course, ‘add value’. I’d scroll through LinkedIn and see the same people that I went to University with doing big things, landing big positions. I would scratch my head and question what to do next but the vagueness of ‘adding value’ wasn’t allowing me to go very far. Instead, I go round in circles, over and over trying to work out what it would be that would make me happier.
But somewhere along the way, I learnt to stop watching everyone else and learnt to ask myself the questions that would help me figure out my way.
1. We compare to other people because it’s easy and accessible so make it harder
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” — Theodore Roosevelt
There is an abundance of data out there. In a matter of minutes, you can find out what your best friends sister’s cousin is doing with their life and you’d be able to guess pretty accurately how they afford their shiny new BMW. You probably don’t think about the number of people that will be that might be searching for you on a daily basis but they are. Contrary to what you might think, people will be peering into the living room window of your life and feeling that pang of envy you feel when you look into theirs.
One of the reasons for that is pure accessibility. Never before have we had so much access to the worlds of others. Whilst that brings some great things it also brings some unhappiness. If you spend your time constantly scrolling through social media then chances are you’ll feel pretty crap.
Instead, try adding more friction into the process of getting onto the platforms. For instance, remove social media platforms from your preferences, avoid automatic sign-ins and unsubscribe to channels that make you unhappy.
2. We compare apples with pears — try comparing apples with apples
“Why compare yourself to others? No one is the entire world can do a better job of being you than you.” — Anonymous
I’ll find myself comparing my life to a 50-year old mogul whose parents gave him $20 million to start his wildly successful startup. I’ll sit there and think to myself that I’m a total failure for not starting a business and turning over $1 million a minute. The truth though is that him and I are totally different. I’ve had a different life to this mogul and him to me, so it’s hard to compare us both accurately.
Likewise, that’s the same for anyone you are comparing yourself with. Unless it’s your twin and even there there are environmental factors at play which will lead to differences. Each human is totally unique, it’s an element of this world that is so wonderful. When you are comparing yourself to people that you went to school with just remember that they are different to you. They are not only different in the way they grew up but they are different in the way they see the world. To them, you might be the most successful person in the world because you have a loving family and they’ve never had that.
Instead compare who you were last week with who you are this week. Compare your output with yourself. Is happiness up this week? Is productivity up this week?
3. Realising that you don’t need to compare yourself
“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Somewhere along the way, most likely on a particularly good day, you’ll realise that there is very little to be gained by comparing yourself to other people. Let’s look at what likely to happen if you spend your time comparing yourself to someone else:
- Feeling bad about yourself
- Feeling like you’ve done life wrong
- Feelings of jealously and envy
None of those are positives. Unless you get insane amounts of motivation from looking at other people and comparing their life to yours, there is very little to gain from sitting and comparing two individuals with completely different ambitions, wants and desires from the world.
Before anything else, realise that comparing yourself is likely to end up in only negatives.
4. Understand that comparison leads to a reduction of you
“If you try to follow everyone else and be like everyone else, before you know it you’re gone. You’re not going to find yourself again; you’ll just be a version of what you might have hoped to have been.” ― Dolly Parton
If you spend all your time idolising someone else, you are becoming less of yourself by the second. Authenticity goes completely out the window the moment you hope to be like someone else. The reality is, no matter how hard you try, you won’t be just like someone else because that someone else is different from you.
In careers it’s exactly the same. Most often we compare jobs and salaries. If someone’s job sounds cool it makes us jealous and immediately we start to compare our job to see if it’s just as cool. If it’s salary, well you compare numbers and usually feel like rubbish because you don’t meet the mark. It happens all the time on this platform. The most successful writers on this platform will boast numbers and if you’ve been writing for a similar amount of time you will feel you pale in comparison.
But you don’t. It’s not a competition. And you certainly won’t increase your chances of being more successful on this platform if you copy every headline from your favourite writer. People find authenticity endearing mostly because the vast majority of us are comparing ourselves every day. That one person that is unapologetically themselves stands out.
If I’m totally honest I don’t really have an actionable tip here, I just think it’s about knowing that being you is good enough. And that sounds embarrassingly self-helpy and not very helpful but is there any other way to say it? You are good enough (minus the cringe-factor).
5. Don’t ask about anything you know you can compare yourself to
“The Joneses don’t deserve your attention.” ― Richie Norton
When you are in a particularly vulnerable mood, you know when you feel like life is crumbling and nothing looks like it’s bright anymore, the last thing you need to do is feel worse. Sometimes it feels like a bit of self-sabotage, like your asking the world to make you feel worse but I would advise against it, it’ll only lead to you feeling like crap.
Instead, ask about something else. If you’re at a friend’s house (or maybe face-timing your friend due to the current pandemic) don’t go searching for things that will make you feel worse. If your best friend has got a high-flying job that makes you feel horrendously jealous, stop asking about it. It’s just fuel to your fire of making you feel worse. Instead, ask about the important stuff in life like relationships, happiness, health. Those are the things that hopefully you have and hopefully you don’t have to feel jealous about.
Give yourself less opportunity to compare, stop asking questions you know the answers too.
It’s easy to say we’re all different and you shouldn’t compare yourself because you are fundamentally different to everyone else but that probably won’t stop you comparing yourself. What might stop you is knowing that most people find totally authentic people compelling and that you don’t need to compare yourself if you don’t want to, it might have just become a bad habit.
To reduce the likelihood of practicing that habit, take your passwords out of the social media accounts that you usually go on to get your comparison hit. LinkedIn is the prime example. The likelihood is that you forget your password enough to mean that if you attempt it a couple of times and don’t get in, you’ll give up and then you won’t spend the next 2 hours comparing yourself. Add friction to any activity where you know you compare yourself.
But above all else (and here comes the cringe fest again), it’s important to know that being you, the actual you, is absolutely enough. Your job right now, whatever it is, it good enough.