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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

The 3 Most Insane Ways You're Comparing Yourself to Others—Plus, How to Snap Out of It


You’re surrounded by the competition.

You may be working like a machine to build your career, but in this competitive world, there’s a grinding of metal on metal—a tension that makes you compare yourself to others. Colleagues with higher salaries. Peers with faster career advancement. Friends with better titles and greater freedom.

It’s everywhere. And it’s inevitable.

However, those comparisons always take away from your sense of self and never actually get you ahead, so it’s vital that you learn how to stop comparing your professional path to others’. To help you do that, here are three common beliefs that people often impose on themselves—and how you can turn your mindset around.

Belief #1: “Other People Have All the Luck”

Part of me wants to be Benedict Cumberbatch.

He’s smart and funny and looks pretty good in a suit. He’s insanely talented and could fill 221b Baker Street to the roof with all his cash. He’s engaged to someone gorgeous, and he’s been cast as Dr. Strange in the Marvel cinematic universe (trust this geek—that’s huge). Lucky son of a gun.

Why do I have to struggle in a small town in Kent, when I could be on the red carpet with Hollywood throwing money at me? The injustice of it all.

The notion that others have all the luck, while you get none of the breaks, is nasty. More than a simple demonstration of envy, it’s envy without recognition of your own capability. It's envy without effort, with a sprinkling of ignorance.

Luck isn’t a passive experience where the world simply gives you something on a silver platter; it requires you to make effort and notice an opportunity to make something happen. If I choose not to recognize Mr. Cumberbatch’s talent, his years of craft, or his love for what he does, then I’m really missing the point.

Instead of looking at the guy who just landed the promotion or the girl who just scored some major praise and chalking it up to blind luck, look for opportunities for how you can do great work, too.

Belief #2: “Other People Have Something I Don't”

Other people are younger than me. Many are more talented. Some are better looking. A handful are funnier.

But even though I know that, I sometimes catch myself thinking, Why are they so much better than me?

I know you’ve had similar thoughts. You look at that guy in your department and wonder how everything comes so easily to him. You watch a woman lead a meeting or a workshop and convince yourself that you couldn’t do it as well as she did. You see the new employee and wonder if you were ever that talented and passionate.

Everyone makes these comparisons, because we all fear that we’re not good enough. We all fear that we’ll be called out for our shortcomings. We all fear that we’ll screw up.

But these aren’t healthy comparisons. It’s one thing to compare avocados for ripeness or bed linens for luxuriousness, but comparing your insides with someone else’s outsides is BS.

Comparing your worst thoughts about yourself with the best possible perception of other people is crazy—like having a dream that you’re in a board meeting without your clothes on, and then getting a full-body tattoo of a business suit just in case it actually happens.

So stop it.

Face it: Some people are more talented than you, and some less so. Some have more experience, and some less so. Some have whiter shirts, and some less so.

Those facts only detract from your capability if you think they do.

Belief #3: “Other People Are More Successful”

Success is a bizarre concept. It suggests that if you work and work and work, there’s a tipping point where things suddenly move from being “unsuccessful” to “successful.” It suggests that other people easily achieve this thing called success, while you have to work harder to attain it. And perhaps worst of all, it suggests that success is some kind of endgame, a place where you can sit back, stop trying so hard, and enjoy the good life.

But the truth is, success is too often just a mirage; a constantly moving target that never really existed in the first place.

To truly achieve success, you first have to unpack what it really means to you. For example, maybe you value being your own boss, creating something that matters, being part of something bigger than yourself, surrounding yourself with talented people, or any one of a million other things. Until you define your version of success, it will forever remain a comparative concept where others are always more successful than you.

All of this leads us to one important question: What would it take for you to let go of the urge to compare yourself to others?