Avoiding the Comparison Trap

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You may have heard that “comparison is the thief of joy.”

So then why do we keep falling into the comparison trap?

Whether it’s scrolling past perfect homes and vacation photos on social media or reading about everyone’s career achievements on LinkedIn, it’s hard to avoid the constant parade of other people’s perfect lives. 

And when we see our friends, acquaintances, and even strangers doing so well, it’s easy to grumble and believe that you’re incapable of ever achieving success. 

But comparing yourself to others is not only unproductive, but it doesn’t reveal any honest truths about you. If anything, comparing only perpetuates false beliefs you may have about yourself and others.

Why you need to avoid the comparison trap

You have a different starting point

Maybe you’ve been comparing your career trajectory with that of your peers. You might be wondering: why do they have the fancy job title or office while I’m still stuck here? 

But it’s important to remember that you and your peers probably had different starting points. 

Yes, that acquaintance on LinkedIn just got promoted to Executive Director, but they started in their industry years before you. 

Yes, your relative just bought a new house, but they started squirreling away money and researching the real estate market years earlier.

Yes, your peer just published a novel but they’ve been honing their craft and polishing their work years before you even started.

While it’s easy to compare and complain about other people’s success, you have to recognize that your trajectory is different. Your background, your journey, and your starting point is not going to be identical to the experience of others. 

Everyone’s progress is different

Not only does everyone have different starting points and journeys, but everyone has different speeds when it comes to progress. 

Some people come out of the gate hot. While others take years to develop their success. Some people become billionaires with their first business idea. While others have several failed attempts before finally landing on a winning idea.

Just because you think your career has yet to “take off” doesn’t mean it never will. In fact, you may not even realize how much you’ve accomplished already. There’s probably someone else out there who admires your work and what you’ve done so far.

Comparison isn’t helpful because so much of it depends on your perspective. You may only see how far you’ve yet to go. When what you should really be doing is looking back and being proud of how far you’ve come. 

You may not have the same values 

Maybe you’re bemoaning the fact that your peers are making six figure salaries and living in fancy homes. But ask yourself: do you even want those things?

It doesn’t make sense to compare yourself to others when you might not even want the same things or share the same values.

Instead of taking inventory of what you have versus what other people have, it’s far more beneficial to review your values and make sure that you’re staying true to them. Are you serving your friends and community? Are you showing up for your family? Are you being generous with your time and attention?

In the end, it’s your values that will help you lead a more rich and fulfilling life. 

You don’t know what the other person is going through

Another reason to stop comparing? You have no idea what the other person is going through. 

Yes, that successful coworker just landed a promotion but maybe they had to sacrifice their social and personal life to get there.

Yes, they just bought a dream house, but maybe they were scraping the bottom of the barrel just a few years ago and endured so much hardship to get where they are now. 

We never know what’s really going on behind the shiny facade of someone else’s success. While it’s only natural to experience pangs of envy when you see someone else’s shiny new promotion, it’s also helpful to remind yourself that everyone is going through their own thing, and that it might not be as easy as it may seem.

How to escape the comparison trap

Here are some strategies to avoid the comparison trap and replace it with routines and behaviors that will empower you. 

Feel your feelings

While comparing yourself to others isn’t good for you, stifling your feelings isn’t going to help either. 

So the next time you feel yourself examining your life in contrast to others, break out your journal and feel your feelings

Writing through your feelings will make you feel so much better. And it might even help you get to the root of the comparison trap. 

Do you find yourself stuck in the comparison trap because you feel stuck at work? Or did you recently experience a career setback? Or are you feeling disconnected from your friends and loved ones?

Once you get to the heart of the issue, you can then start taking steps to move away from the comparison trap and transfer your energy elsewhere. 

Define what you want to achieve

Okay, so you’re jealous of other people’s achievements. But instead of comparing and fixating on other people’s success, ask yourself: what do I want to achieve? 

Jealousy is often a signal of a secret yearning, an inner voice telling us that we want to do something. If you’re constantly comparing yourself to a stranger’s achievements, then start making a list of what you want to achieve.

Set aside time to write in your journal and dream big. Make a list of all the things you want to achieve. Maybe it’s buying a house. Or vacationing in Europe. Or publishing an article. 

Make a plan for what you want to achieve 

Now make a list of things you can do in the next three months to start making headway on these goals. And then make a list of things you can do this week and today to get closer to your goals. 

So if your dream goal is to buy a house, then create a budget and start making plans to earn more money and save.

Make sure to write this all down in your planner. Check in with yourself and your goals every month, week, and day.  

You won’t have time to compare because you’ll be too busy accomplishing your own big dreams.

Written by JiJi Lee

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