When someone passes you by on the road with a better car than you, you probably thought “that person must be rich” or “that person must be successful.” When someone seems to be better at a sport or skill that you’re still trying to master, you probably thought “they must be just naturally talented.” Whenever someone wins an award, gets promoted at their job or just seems to have life figured out, you probably thought “why can’t I be like that person?”
We all get these thoughts. It’s human nature to want something we don’t have.
But where do these negative thoughts of comparison originate from?
For me, it was taught by my parents. I remember when I wasn’t doing well in school or was being a bad kid, my parents would compare me to either my two older sisters or some other kid that they knew. My father would also compare me to other kids when it came to my tennis skills. They would use phrases like “why can’t you be more like (insert sibling name or other kids name here)?”
So obviously I grew up with a lot of self-doubt and not a lot of confidence.
This mindset followed me into my professional career as a web designer. Whenever I would stare at a website of a more experienced web designer or an interactive agency, I would think “why can’t I do that?” or “I wish I could be like that designer. I bet they have a great life.” If I messed up at a task at my job, I would be really hard on myself because I would always think my co-workers are so much better than me. I would also continually think because of that one mistake I would be fired the next day.
Sure, this type of thought helped me push myself harder to be better at my job, but I was doing myself a disservice at the same time. I never took the time to step back and appreciate what I’ve learned and how far I’ve come in my career.
It took me 10 years to realize that I am good at web design. But it took me another 3 years to stop comparing myself to others in my industry. As for comparing myself, generally, to others, I still do that from time to time. Especially if I see someone rollin’ in a Tesla Model S or X.
Today, I’m happy with who I am and happy about where my life is at at this very moment. It’s a feeling not many people get. But part of my life’s purpose is to try to help others find a path to this same feeling.
If you’re not happy, yet, with yourself, let me give you one piece of advice. Don’t compare your life with others, compare yourself with who you were 1 year ago and 10 years ago. Write down what you have learned, who you've helped and what you've accomplished. Then write down where you want to be 1 year, 5 years or even 10 years from now.
The next time you see that “successful” person pass you by, realize this. No one has their shit together. Everyone is still trying to figure life out. Just because they might be successful at one thing, doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling with something that you may have already figured out.
You are not like other people. You are you. Your accomplishments and how you help others are what makes you great.