I was chatting with a couple of friends the other day and each were sharing their unique experiences at work. There was one thing they each shared, however, which was their struggle with comparison. Each of the girls have just started new positions in the last year and as they strive to prove themselves at work, the natural tendency to compare themselves and their work to those around them has slowly creeped in.
But they are not alone in their experiences. Social comparison is so common that there is even a theory based around its effects.
Whether you’re starting a new career or you’re a veteran in your role, here are a few ways comparison can rob us of joy and how you can counteract these feelings:
Comparisons do not show the full picture.
You might have heard the expression “You have the same number of hours in the day as Beyonce”. While true and motivating, Beyonce was also blessed with opportunities that many of us will never have. Comparing yourself to others is unfair because we each have unique backgrounds, skills, and passions.
Gratitude reveals the whole story.
Instead of comparison, consider ways you can be grateful instead. Make a list every day of five things you are thankful for. Whenever you start comparing yourself to others, reach for the list and remember that what you have experienced serves to make you the person that you are and put you on a career path that’s uniquely yours.
Comparisons put the focus on the wrong person.
“He’s so smart.” “She’s so successful.” “His life is perfect.” Notice the subject of these sentences is not YOU. Comparisons have the power to put your focus on other people instead of on your own accomplishments.
Pride redefines the meaning of success.
Instead of focusing on what other people achieved, consider your own successes. It can be as small as finishing a report to larger achievements like a promotion or a raise. No matter how insignificant, tracking our achievements can be a great way to put the focus back on ourselves and our goals.
Comparisons build resentment.
One of the most harmful effects of social comparison is the resentment that can build over time. We can not only become bitter about our own shortcomings, but also resent others’ success, harming our relationships and creating walls between us.
Humility brings happiness.
This is probably the most difficult to achieve, but when we turn comparison into admiration, the results can be extremely beneficial. Instead of harboring feelings of jealousy, ask questions of the people you respect. Determine how they got to the place that you admire. You may find that things are not quite as simple as they appear, or find ways to reach your own goals that you might not have thought of before. It might not be easy to put away those jealous feelings, but in the end, you’ll build stronger relationships and learn a lot along the way.
“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms.” Don’t think about what the other flowers are doing… just bloom.