I nervously fidgeted in the hard classroom chair. It was finally my first day of graduate school and my professor had just requested that each student stand up, one by one and introduce themselves as well as the business that they would be looking to develop during their time as an MBA student. After apprehensively scanning the room, I gulped. Every student sat confidently and poised as if they had it altogether. I swore my rapidly beating heart could be heard by everyone in the room as each student spoke of their business plan with assurance that it would change the world of media as we know it. After hearing business idea after business idea I realized that not one student was working on anything even close to what I was working on. Failing to realize that this was a gift instead of a curse I quickly made an appointment with my professor, hoping to pick her brain to see if I should shift gears and change direction of the company that I was seeking to build. She quickly reassured me that I was fine and that many successful and unique businesses were birthed out of our program. “Don’t allow what everyone else is doing to cause you to doubt yourself. One student has absolutely nothing to do with another, it’s like apples and oranges,” she said to me before shooing me out of her office. I learned a valuable lesson that day.
We all face the temptation to compare ourselves to those around us, it is human nature. It is sometimes how we measure our own progression, successes, and failures. While this may be a natural behavior, it isn’t always a healthy one. Making a habit out of trying to appraise your own self-worth by paralleling your life against that of another can be detrimental to your mental and emotional well-being. This behavior will often place one on the road to feelings of unhappiness, inferiority, inadequacy, failure, envy, and a host of other undesired emotions. Living in the age of social media, with platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which give us the ability to voyeur into the lives of others with the mere click of a mouse, only intensifies the ever present temptation to compare. We’ve all sat in front of the computer at one point or another and while innocently scanning through one of our social media timeline’s, have come across a distant (or close) friend’s major life announcement that has caused us to question the place in which we are in our own lives. Whether it be a graduation announcement, a sonogram photo, new business venture, or a relationship status update, and so on.
So here’s the thing, one of the most enthralling things about life is that we were all created to be individuals. No two people are exactly the same. We all move at our own separate paces. Consider your life an unfinished work of art. How can it ever be considered a masterpiece if it is a mere copy of something else? Dr. Judith Orloff, author of Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life said it best in an April 2012 feature she wrote for the Huffington Post, “ Your life is explicitly designed for your own growth. Every person you meet, every situation you encounter, challenges you to become a stronger, more loving, and confident person.”
Social comparison can be a pretty difficult habit to break because it comes so naturally, but here are some things to remember that may help you out along the way:
1. You are one of a kind. There is literally no one walking this earth quite like you.
2. Life isn’t a competition so pursue what makes you happy in a pace that you are comfortable with.
3. Remind yourself of how wonderful you are.
4. Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem to others.
5. Realize that you won’t always be the best at everything and that’s okay. Try focusing on beating your own best score instead of someone else’s, it will help measure your growth in a healthy way.
6. Be grateful for what you do have and what you’ve already accomplished, instead of harping on what you don’t.
7. Realize that everything that glitters isn’t gold. Just because a person appears to have it all on the outward doesn’t mean they actually do. You’ll never know a person’s full story until you’ve actually walked in their shoes.
8. It is cool to learn from the successes and failures of others, but don’t dwell on them.
9. It is impossible to keep up with the Joneses! They can’t even keep up with themselves.