One reason to keep comparing yourself to others

A group of four colleagues is sitting in a beige cafeteria, eating their lunch under a set of flickering neon lights. The oldest man of the group asks: “So? You guys have any plans for this week end?” The youngest replies: “I’ll probably go out with some friends. Have a few drinks. Not much else”. The only woman in the group adds: “My sister is visiting this week end. So it will be it for me. Apart from the usual. You know, the grocery and all.” The fourth person; a man, replies: “Not think about work, for sure!” Everybody laughs. The he adds: “But I’ll probably go on a bike ride Sunday. If the forecasts stay the same.”

How we use our time greatly influences what we’re able to accomplish, as individuals. Whether in a single day, in a week or over a certain period of time. Not only at work but in our spare time as well.

So when we come across someone who outperforms us, in the number of things that he or she can do during that same period of time, it somehow makes us feel uncomfortable in our own shoes.

How does he manage a job, here, plus taking part in so many fishing tournaments?”, “How does she do it? Working full time, completing her MBA, with two kids at home? I only work full time and I have enough…

If what that person does turns out to be successful most of the time, things gets worse. Our questions turn into personal attacks.

First, about that person’s skills. “What’s so special about her? To be able to do all that and succeed? I really don’t see it.” Second, about her personal ethic or principles. “She mustn’t do everything right. Yeah. She must cheat in some way or ask for some favors. In exchange for things I wouldn’t, personally, do or give” But the go-to argument in this kind of situation is luck. “We all know… It’s always the same (people) who get everything.” “Emily is one of the lucky ones. Things only go her way…

THE “WHY OTHERS HAVE A BETTER LIFE THAN ME?” QUESTION AND THE SELF-ESTEEM PROBLEM IT SHEDS LIGHT ON

Why we do that? Criticizing other people’s success? Because comparing ourselves and not understanding how come we’re only able to achieve less than Emily, for example, makes us feel incompetent.

As humans, we hate to feel “lesser than”. “Equal to” or “better than” is good, but “lesser than”, not so much.

So, bigger the difference between what Emily can do and what we can do – during let’s say a week – the worse we feel. The worse we feel, the more we want to discredit what Emily did, by finding kind of flaws in it. To make us feel better, in some way. To feel less “lesser than”, sort of speak.

GETTING TO LEARN THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF HOW THINGS GET DONE

This kind behavior rarely happens when we have all the information, about the other person’s situation. When we’ve somehow got an access backstage, and got to see or be told how Emily really got things done.

When, most importantly, we get to learn what Emily had to pass on, postpone or simply give up for being able to achieve what she did.

This is the tricky part in most success stories. Whatever their scale or field is. Someone who has to let go of one thing – even if only temporarily – in order to get another. Letting go of family time, to attend evening classes. Letting go of personal savings, to buy woodworking tools and materials. Letting go of free time, to work the extras hours that led to a promotion.

Putting in the efforts” being the common thread in all this. Efforts in time, money and energy.

Things we can all do. If we choose to. If we learn how to, as well.

The easiest thing to do, when we look at someone success, it’s always to criticize who she is and discredit what she did. The hardest part is acknowledging that, just like her, we, too, have a role to play in our own successes or failures.

Because the problem isn’t with comparing ourselves. At least, once you start using such comparison to learn how to actually achieve what someone else did. Not to denigrate yourself. The challenge is with the sacrifices you need to make, in order to be able to do all the behind-the-scene work required for things to start going your way.

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Photo by: WorkAndPix

Design by: Di Mellon

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