Sometimes we find ourselves re-evaluating our lives, our work, and even our legacies. Often we do this when we’re feeling particularly vulnerable or uncertain about the future.
We also do it when we reach milestones in our lives, for example when we turn twenty, thirty, and forty. We do it one year after graduating from university or a couple of years after starting a new business. We do it after big life events such as the breakup of a relationship or the death of a loved one.
We begin to compare ourselves with those around us and inevitably find ourselves wanting. Other people are cleverer than us, more successful, more together, more focused, more everything than we are, or so it seems. We all do this comparison thing even though it’s essentially a form of self-flagellation.
Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside
All of us have a public persona – the face we’re happy to present to the outside world. It’s the face that says everything’s fine, even when inside we may be falling apart.
If you scan through your Facebook timeline or your Twitter feed, it probably looks like everyone’s having a great time. They’re posting photos of their latest adventures, descriptions of their round the world trips, and links to high profile reviews of their latest projects.
The thing is, these snippets of other people’s lives are just carefully selected highlights. They’re not a real representation of how other people actually feel and live their lives.
How often do people shout about the negatives like losing a job, having a meltdown, being broke, or feeling completely lost? Yet the law of averages suggests these things are also happening to the people on your Facebook feed. It’s just that they’re choosing not to share these events with you.
Here are 4 common comparison traps to be aware of:
1) We don’t all have the same starting point
Life is not a level playing field and we don’t all start from the same point. We each bring a complex and truly unique mix of experiences and resources with us. This makes compare ourselves with someone else the same as comparing apples with oranges.
2) We’re all at different stages
One of the easy traps to fall into is comparing yourself with someone who’s been doing whatever you’re doing for a lot longer than you have. If you’re just starting out, there’s no way you’ll have the same level of skill, the same amount of experience, or the same level of success as someone who’s been doing it for years.
3) Edited highlights are not the full story
You know when you’re asked how you are and you reply “fine” even though you’re not? Well those people who are busy telling you what amazing times they’re having are probably showing you no more about their lives than you’re showing them by summing your life up as “fine.”
Yes, that round the world trip is full of fantastic destinations, but has your friend forgotten to mention the days when she get lonely and homesick and felt like throwing the towel in and flying home?
4) Other people aren’t always as confident as they look
It can feel as though everyone else is confident and that they have all the skills they need. Dig a little deeper though and you’ll find that most of us are actually more than a little scared when we’re starting something new, like launching our first blog or changing career. Fear is a normal reaction to the unknown and even when our outsides look calm, inside many of us are panicking.
It’s better to compare yourself with yourself
When you feel the urge to cast your eye around for someone to compare yourself with, look a little closer to home instead. Concentrate on being the best that you can be.
Push at the boundaries of what you can achieve and work towards being the person you want to be. Keep a record of your achievements, so that when you begin to doubt yourself, you can look back and see how far you’ve already come.
When you look at others, look to see what you can learn from them. Look to be inspired by them rather than to use them as a benchmark against which to measure yourself.
Next time you feel like everyone is more sorted than you, remember that beneath their steely exterior, there’s probably a jelly-like interior!
Do you find yourself stuck in the comparison trap? How do you escape from it?