On: Comparing Yourself to Others
One of the biggest issues I have right now is constantly comparing myself to other people, and I never quite stack up. I know it’s not good to do, and I constantly tell myself to stop, but I can’t. My mind is constantly on a loop of how I compare to those around me. It’s taking up way too much of my mental space, and it’s stealing my happiness.
I’ve seen many articles about how social media is making people more depressed about their own lives because they’re constantly seeing the highlight reel from other people’s lives and comparing it to their real life. I don’t think that’s my problem. Sure, it’s hard not to get jealous of my globe-trotting cousin or my friend who’s lost a ton of weight and looks like a supermodel now, but those things generally don’t make me feel worse about myself. I made different choices in life than those people, and I love hanging out with my kids and eating cinnamon Oreos while binge watching Netflix. It’s the people I see in the real world every day in my professional life who cause me to feel inadequate.
This was never really an issue in school. Two of my best friends were 4.0 students and valedictorians and it never bothered me. I graduated, went to college, got a real job, and moved on with my life. I think the problem now is that this is my real life. I’m in the profession I chose and I’m a very ambitious person. I want to move up and become a leader in my company and community, be influential and someone people look up to. I know, that’s a tall order, but go big or go home. Why would I want to work somewhere if I didn’t think I could one day be CEO (or CFO, or at least tax director).
This all started as soon as I got out of college and started my first real job. At first, since I was at the bottom of the totem pole, it was looking at people hired at the same time as me or just before and comparing their trajectory to mine. Did they get promoted before me? Did they get projects that I felt were superior, or did it seem like people respected them more? It was often some of my best friends at work who caused me to feel the worst about myself, and not through anything they were doing wrong, they were never malicious or conniving. It was all in my head and I knew it and tried to not let it affect my relationships with them, professionally or personally.
Then it started being people who came on after me advancing super quickly. Still not necessarily surpassing me, but rising more quickly than I did, or gaining knowledge faster, or being seen as a leader earlier in their careers. It’s kind of like a punch in the gut when it took you five years to get to the same place someone else got to in two. And now I’m seeing people who started after me getting promoted to levels above me and it’s almost more than I can handle. I’m constantly thinking about it and stressing and wondering what is wrong with me.
I know these are just my perceptions, and other people may see me as moving up quicker, or of having more knowledge, or as more of a leader. And everyone’s situations and experiences are different. They may have had chances to work on projects that just propelled them up, their group may have needed someone at that level where mine didn’t and it was a case of right place at the right time. There are a million little nuances that go into each person’s career advancements, which have absolutely nothing to do with me. I definitely don’t begrudge these other people their promotions, or the projects they get to work on that I covet. In each case I think they 100% deserved it; I just don’t understand why I’m not getting opportunities like that as well.
It’s hard being so ambitious and not feeling like I’m excelling in my career while others appear to be effortlessly navigating the corporate ladder. It seriously seeps into every aspect of my life. I think about it on my drive, as I’m making dinner, as I’m falling asleep at night, and it’s incredibly unhealthy. I try to tell myself not to think about it. I have a great life, a great family, and I really enjoy my job and make good money. Why can’t I just be happy with what I have? I’m just not wired that way. I always want to do better, be better, continually improving and advancing. So this is a tough season in my life and I’m not quite sure how to get past it; but like everything, I know that this too shall pass… eventually… right?