How much of your day do you spend obsessively comparing yourself to your friends or colleagues? Your best friend from college makes more money than you do, even though she's been at her job for less time. Your cubicle mate always gets complimented by your boss, even though you know she spends half her workday on Facebook. If you're a frequent player of the comparison game, you know it always leads to you feeling terrible about yourself. Yes, everyone on LinkedIn is doing better on the ladder than you are. And yes, everyone on Instagram is living their best life. But did you know that without the whole story, you really have no basis for comparison?
Here’s how you can make sure to not fall into the trap of needless comparison. The next time you play the "here's why he's better" game, simply remember these tips, take a deep breath, and work on improving yourself rather than holding yourself against impossible standards.
1. Realize that comparisons don’t tell the whole story.
Are you comparing what you know to be your worst against what you judge to be someone else's best? Are you comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle? Your early career to their glory days? Your entry-level salary to their 40-year career? Remember that comparisons require metrics, which are hard to come by even when you aren’t trying to compare apples to oranges or seeds to trees.
2. Understand that you're wasting precious time.
Every hour you spend comparing yourself to someone else is an hour you’re not spending doing better, learning more, acquiring new skills, and moving forward. Comparing yourself to someone else shifts your mindset away from where it needs to be—on you—by putting it somewhere else much less productive. Focus on yourself and what you must do to be where you need to be, and cut out the rest of the noise.
3. Know that social media is not your friend.
The next time you fall down an Insta-hole of perfectly posed pictures, turn off your device (or at least shut down your app) and force yourself to spend at least one hour without logging back on. If you spend that hour working on a self-improvement project, that's all the better. Work on building the kind of life you can be proud of. Focus on the present, not on how many “likes” you got on your last post. Do something for yourself or someone else that will actually matter.
4. Turn that frown upside down.
Address whatever negative feelings are lurking in the back of your brain and try to turn them into positives. Use your jealousy and insecurity to spur you to grow faster and more. In fact, instead of viewing the person who's making you feel less-than as competition, you can think of him or her as a muse or an inspiration to do better. You might even reach out to that person in a mentorship or brain-picking capacity!
5. Keep your dignity.
You have nothing to gain in comparison situations, but everything to lose—not just your time and energy, but your drive, your passion, your pride, and your dignity. You're only in control of one life—your own. Do what you can to make it the best it can be, and don't become bitter and jealous while forgetting to make something of yourself in the meantime.