Let’s face it, we all do it.
We get 86% on an exam and feel fantastic, until Smart Sally comes along and flaunts her 90%. We put our blood, sweat, and tears into succeeding at work, until we hear Charming Chad receive the praise instead.
We’re familiar with that sinking feeling in our chests when somebody ‘does better’ or ‘receives more’ compared to us. It’s an unpleasant sensation, often a mixture of envy, disappointment, and a chip at our self-esteem. We scream into the void, “It’s not fair!”
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Wow, that really frames comparison in a bad light.
Now I have some bad news, and some good news.
The bad news is comparing ourselves to others is pretty inevitable—we’re apparently wired, as humans, to do this. The good news is we can navigate this inevitability in a way that’s helpful, not harmful. Here’s what to remember...
There are ‘insecurity hot spots’ you can control
I don’t know about you, but Instagram is a prime place for making me feel inadequate in comparison to others.
On the one hand, I want to keep up to date with my friends’ lives. On the other hand, I see IG stories of Genius Gerald winning case competitions and Travel-bug Tracy sipping on coconuts in Hawaii, and I wonder why I’m sitting in front of a blank essay.
Then again, nobody is forcing you to keep refreshing your feed.
This is an example of an ‘insecurity hot spot’ we can control. Try going on a social media detox!
When you put down your phone, you can focus more on being present and spending time with family and friends who lift you up. You’ll also free up countless hours to work on (and be proud of) yourself!
Remember, places like Instagram aren’t accurate representations of real life. After all...
What you see is just the surface
Everybody is an iceberg (to some extent). We often pick and choose the best parts of ourselves to display (the tip), while the real us can only be discovered by going beneath the surface (the rest of the iceberg).
Remember that what you see is often not an accurate depiction of reality. For example, if you failed an exam, you’re probably much less likely to announce it to the world than if you received a huge scholarship.
Smart Sally scored 4% higher than you? You see her satisfied smile, but you don’t see the tens of hours she spent redoing textbook questions. Cheesy Cherry and her boyfriend PDA Paul are #couplegoals? You see their hand-holding, but you don’t see the argument they had last night.
Don’t compare your reality with other people’s surface displays.
Now, instead of being icebergs, let's become lawns of grass.
The grass seems greener on the other side
It’s so easy to notice what we lack, but what about what we have?
Maybe your neighbour’s lawn (or Braggy Bob’s accomplishments) seem super impressive. But you should be proud of your own lawn too! In fact, while you’re busy being jealous of Perfect Priscilla’s impeccable pedicure, Perfect Priscilla is wondering how she can be as caring and lovable as you.
So instead of wanting to climb over the fence to get on par with other people’s perfection, water your own grass. Everybody is unique, and nobody (and I mean nobody) is actually perfect.
You are your own version of perfect, so grow it, and own it.
Now, let’s turn this comparison game into something positive.
Comparisons show what makes you shine
It’s inevitable to compare ourselves to others. In that case, let’s make the best of it! When in the comparison game, reframe it—so that instead of fixating on your flaws, focus on your strengths and opportunities.
Use comparison to draw attention to your strengths. Don’t be cocky about it, but do acknowledge the areas where you’re successful. Be grateful for the position that you’re in, and focus on what makes you unique!
For example, maybe you’re not great at math in comparison to your classmates (#relatable). But when it comes to creativity, your classmates might get stuck while you’re a total rockstar idea generator. Don’t forget how awesome you are.
Comparison can become inspiration
Gaps are not failures. Gaps are opportunities to become better. For me, the people around me are a prime source of motivation.
For example, maybe Techy Tony scored a job at Google. Now you’re thinking, “Darn, I wish that was me.” Well, it could be you.
Instead of being jealous, take this chance to congratulate Tony, and perhaps ask him for a coffee chat to learn about how he did it.
Be humble. Be curious. Be a lifelong learner.
Soon, people will be asking you on coffee chats to learn how you made it.
Remember: you’re irreplaceable!
You’re super unique. Seriously.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you compare to Techy Tony, Perfect Priscilla, Smart Sally, Braggy Bob, or Travel-bug Tracy. You are your own person, so don’t ever let comparisons erase your confidence in how great you are. You have the power to reframe the comparison game with gratitude and motivation instead!