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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

3 Smarter Things to Do Instead of Comparing Yourself to Others

We compare ourselves to others all the time—she’s so much cooler than I am; he always knows how to impress our boss; she’s definitely going to get promoted before I do.

And we also all know how bad it is to do this. It doesn’t lead to any self-improvement, and it makes us feel worse about ourselves because we can’t live up to all the people around us.

Long story short: This kind of internal dialogue isn’t productive. Now, I can’t stop you from having these thoughts—it’s natural to see our colleagues’ success and wish the same for ourselves. But, I can help you turn those insecurities into healthy, proactive actions.

The next time you start feeling jealous about others’ accomplishments, here’s how to give yourself a confidence boost.

1. List Your Accomplishments

Sure, your co-worker ran an Ironman or your friend landed an awesome new gig. But what about you? I bet you haven’t just been sitting around waiting to get “lucky.”

Whenever you’re feeling down about what everyone else is up to, stop the self-deprecation and take responsibility for your own achievements by writing them down. It can be anything, and it can be short-term or long-term. Just start listing the things you’re proudest of this day, week, year, lifetime. By putting them down on paper, you’re making them real, tangible, noteworthy—and you can’t retract them just because someone else did something bigger.

Next, take a good, hard look at that list. Notice how long it is and how far you’ve come and give yourself a pat on the back.

Then, notice what’s missing from it, which leads me to my next point.

2. Set Goals

The beneficial thing about comparing yourself to others is that you can use it to push yourself to be better as well. You can’t become someone else, but you can learn from his or her success and adopt some of these same habits or behaviors.

So, take note of what strikes you about someone else, and then think of how you can get there, too. If this person is always prepared in meetings and seemingly able to offer great ideas on the fly, set aside 30 minutes on the day of the meeting to get yourself organized, read through any relevant emails or documents, and start brainstorming on the topic. If he or she is well-liked in the office, make it a goal to get coffee with one new person every day this week so you too can get to know more people (and show them how awesome you are).

Of course, nobody got to where he or she is in a day, which is why it’s important to set realistic expectations for yourself and your abilities. You can look up to your CEO for all the work she’s done, but obviously don’t make your goal “become a CEO by the end of the year.” Instead, evaluate the steps you’d have to take to maybe make that a reality—taking initiative at work, getting involved in speaking engagements, starting a side gig, and so on.

More importantly, be aware of the traits you admire, but simply don’t align with who you are. These are the things you have to just let go. For example, I look up to people who wake up to run every day, but I know that’ll simply never be me (I get more done at night).

3. Ask Questions

Finally, remember that even the coolest, smartest, wittiest, most successful people you wish you were like are also, well, people. And odds are good that they’d be flattered to help you get to their level.

So, don’t be afraid to compliment them, ask questions, and get a bit of insight into what makes them so awesome. Reach out to your hero on LinkedIn with a personalized message and see if he would be willing to discuss his career experience.

Or, ask a colleague if she could give you feedback on your presentation, because she’s always such a good public speaker. Or, grab lunch with a friend and learn about how he landed his new job. (Was spending more time with friends on your list of goals? Boom, two birds with one stone).

It’s normal to see your own flaws in other people’s strengths. The thing is, you shouldn’t just feel bad about yourself—you have the power, and the tools, to become that admirable person. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, take these three steps to harness all that hidden potential you didn’t know you had. And for all you know, maybe all the stuff you have going for you is making someone else jealous as we speak.

Photo of woman listening courtesy of Thomas Barwick/Getty Images.