I don’t know you, but I think it’s a fair assumption to say that you too suffer from the anxiety, resentment and depressive thoughts that arise when we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others.
Sometimes it feels like no matter how hard you try to excel in your field, everyone else seems to be more successful than you.
As someone who’s trying to make it as a successful entrepreneur — and now, a writer — I’ve placed heaps of pressure on myself to “succeed” as fast as I can. I compared myself to the present-day versions of the successful entrepreneurs and thought “I’m not working hard enough, I’m not moving fast enough, I’m not being good enough”.
But therein lies the problem.
An aspiring writer cannot compare himself to a New York Times Bestselling author. Each one is playing on a different level of the game.
We compare ourselves to who we want to become, to the present versions of people whose success we wish to emulate. And in doing so, we completely overlook the time, money, failures and hard work these people went through to achieve their goals and get to where they are today.
The truth is, we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. We don’t know where people come from — their connections, their financial assets, their secret failures. All we see is the image they want us to see, and that means we’re comparing ourselves to perception, rather than truth.
The Negative Effects of Comparison
Comparison is irrational and its implications are damaging. It can lead us into behaving in an illogical manner. Comparison can lead us to feel resentment toward someone else’s success. We begin to doubt our own capabilities: “I’m not good enough.” We begin to feel resentment toward someone else’s success: “How come he succeeded and not me.”
And worst of all, we begin to fall into the trap of self-pity: “She’s so lucky, I wish I had her life.” Such behavior can easily consume your life if you’re not careful. You’ll drain your energy focusing on other people’s achievements instead of doubling down on your own path to success.
You’ll be far removed from the present moment, and in turn, you’ll never be content with what you have and you’ll lose all sense of peace and joy in living. Stop comparing yourself to others and make a conscious effort to avoid it — here’s how.
Create Your Own Definition of Success
The only person you should compare yourself to is you. Your sole purpose today is to become a better version of who you were yesterday. In fact, based on James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, if you can become 1% better today, you’ll be 37x times better by year-end.
You have your own set of talents, ambitions, and life experiences, so the only accurate measure of success and self-worth is who you used to be and who you are becoming now.
Are you growing? Are you learning? Are you building better habits? Are you inching closer to your goals? These are the questions you should be asking yourself to measure your progress and benchmark it. The best mental shift that can stop you from emphasizing your weaknesses, comparing yourself to others or overlooking your progress is by creating your own definition of success.
By defining what success means to you, you create the rules for your playing field. You stop living in accordance to someone else’s definition of success and instead you begin to live life on your own terms.
How to Create Your Definition
Take your time and be very specific with your answers to these questions:
What is it that I want to achieve?
Why does it matter to me?
Who do I want to become in the process of achieving them?
What do I need to do every day to get there?
Here’s an example of my definition of success:
“In three years I will have become a writer [who] with a published book [achievement] that inspires people to transform their lives, create positive change and live it fulfilled [why]. I will begin by publishing two articles per week for the first year [what I need to do to get there].”
I gave myself a vision to reach, a reason to do it, a timeline to work towards and a progress benchmark to compare myself to. And it’s in the very act of putting the daily work into the process that I will expand, grow and thus, be living successfully, in accordance with my own terms.
Don’t Compare — Instead, Become a Student
Comparing yourself to others will add no value to your mission, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn from others.
If you authentically want to succeed in your creative field, you must be willing to invest endless hours in studying, learning, testing, failing, and creating.
A big aspect of that should be dedicated to learning from those who have succeeded or are actively working to do so. What systems, processes, and relationships do they have in place?
If you’re an aspiring writer, violinist or graphic designer, build a habit of studying the top performers in your field.
Become a student of the craft you are aspiring to master.
Don’t compare — stay in your lane, do your work, monitor your progress and try your best to study and learn from the greats in your field.
In a world that is digitally connected more than ever, it’s easy to get lost in the noise. It’s easy to trip on the wrong side of the coin.
You can choose to focus on what you don’t have. You can choose to compare yourself to other people’s outer image of “success”. You will probably live an unhappy life doing so, draining your energy on inaccurate external factors.
Or you can stay in your lane, keep your eyes on your own game, benchmark “the past you” against “the present you”, and immerse yourself with the knowledge of the people who have already reached the success that aligns with your definition of it.