Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Well, Teddy, I can’t help but agree. Oftentimes, seeing how you match up against others is a frustrating, discouraging, and simply unproductive use of your time.
Sure, sometimes there’s nothing like a little friendly competition to really give you a kick in the pants. But, in most cases, constantly comparing yourself—particularly your career—to others is pretty much a recipe for disaster.
Don’t believe me? Here are six reasons you should snap out of it and stop analyzing how you measure up to everyone else. Because, honestly, it really doesn’t matter.
1. It’s Probably Not Relevant
You just heard through the grapevine that your old high school boyfriend just landed this awesome job as an attorney at a high-profile law firm. Instead of feeling happy or proud, you’re immediately filled with intense jealousy.
“Ugh, he’s probably making so much money,” you think to yourself, “I wish I could score a super impressive job like his.”
But, guess what? You’re not even an attorney. You didn’t go to law school, nor have you ever had a desire to work in the legal field. Yet, it’s essentially human nature to see how you measure up to someone else—no matter how much (or how little) you have in common.
Comparing yourself to others is one thing. But, doing so when the other person’s background or industry isn’t even relevant? It’s just a demoralizing waste of time. Instead, pick a few influencers or accomplished professionals in your chosen field who really motivate and inspire you, and work toward achieving that same success. After all, you don’t need me to tell you that comparing apples to oranges just isn’t constructive.
2. It Doesn’t Set Healthy Goals
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with always working towards something. But, I never recommend busting your butt in order to keep up with the Jones’. It simply breeds discontentment. So, spend your time chipping away at the personal goals and ambitions that make you better and make you feel accomplished.
That’s right, constantly being so concerned with how everyone else is performing isn’t doing you any favors. So, set goals that’ll help you achieve what you want (and not just what looks impressive on your LinkedIn profile). You might be surprised with the results!
3. It’s Discouraging
Comparison is a funny thing. It can either make you feel really miserable and defeated, or really victorious and talented. But, more often than not, constantly matching yourself up against others is incredibly disheartening.
Perhaps your college friend just got a big promotion at the tech company where she works. Or, maybe that random acquaintance you Facebook-stalk just posted about that fancy award he received. Good for them! But, what does beating yourself over the head with that information really accomplish? Nothing, other than make you feel irritated, unappreciated, and unimportant.
Sure, seeing that your old college roommate is still scooping cones at her local dairy freeze might lift your spirits. But, that natural tendency is not only mean-spirited; it’s also a little counterproductive. You don’t want to spend your time feeling so superior that you neglect to recognize the areas where you can improve and grow. Then, you might just find yourself at the dairy freeze, too.
4. It’s an Unproductive Waste of Time
This should be obvious, but something positive and productive rarely comes out of comparing yourself to others. So, it’s essentially just a colossal waste of the precious time that you could be spending on other, more beneficial things.
Put an end to your self-deprecating Facebook scrolling and instead think of some actionable things you can do to actually improve yourself. Does your LinkedIn profile need a polish? Is there a professional workshop or seminar you’ve been meaning to sign up for? Are there some new projects you should add to your online portfolio?
Well, do those things now! It’s a much better use of your time than cyber-stalking your second grade pen pal.
5. It’s Not Always What it Seems
It comes as no surprise that people have the tendency to present the shiniest version of their lives—particularly on social media. So, don’t be tricked into thinking that you’re the only one who ever falls on hard times or faces an uphill battle.
That acquaintance who posted about finally taking the leap from her full-time job in order to freelance full-time? Well, of course she’s not going to mention that she was actually let go from her position. That college friend who’s taking some time off to travel and explore? He’s probably not going to post about the fact that he found himself in a job he hated, and now needs time to reevaluate his options.
Nope, things aren’t always as they seem. And, there’s really no use in comparing yourself to a mirage.
6. It’s Not a Measurement of Success
Yes, your career is a huge part of your life. But, how quickly you’re climbing the ladder? It’s not the only definition of a successful existence.
Do you enjoy your work? Do you have a loving and supportive family and group of friends? Are you healthy? Are you happy? If you answered “yes” to all—or even one—of these questions, then I’d say you’re doing pretty well for yourself.
It’s important to always remember that your career is just one slice of the pie. So, don’t let it be solely responsible for a rotten taste in your mouth.
I’ll admit that comparing yourself to others is natural. But, that doesn’t mean it’s valuable. Keep these reasons in mind, shut off that pesky voice in your head, and channel all of your energy into something more productive. At the very least, you’ll make Teddy Roosevelt proud!
Photo of thinking woman courtesy of Shutterstock.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author