As children, many of us fantasized about the future and the way we wanted our lives to be. Some of us dreamed about finding true love and living in a gorgeous house with kids playing in the backyard. Others dreamed of becoming peak performers, making tons of money and rising to the top of their field. Regardless of what your ideal life looks like, we all built a blueprint in our minds for how life should unfold.
When we see people who seem to “have it all” we don’t understand why it’s so hard for us to find our ideal partner or be more successful in our careers. In essence, we’re comparing ourselves to where we are and where they are, which causes us to feel inadequate, disappointed and not good enough.
In our society, there are certain cultural norms that can cause a ton of stress and pressure. With a strong desire to meet these expectations, many of us tie our identity and self-esteem to our achievements. To feel worthy, we think we need to do enough and have enough by a certain time, and if we don’t we feel like we’ve failed.
Remember that You’re Running Your Own Race
The main issue with this way of thinking is that everyone’s journey is unique. The road that leads to your happiness and fulfillment is different than someone else. This is why it’s important to think about what makes you feel joy and what lights you up inside.
Afraid of going against the grain, many of us don’t contemplate what it is we truly desire. We simply believe this is the path we should take, so we don’t think about the one we want to take.
If you tend to get caught in the comparison trap, it’s important to recognize the difference between admiration and idealization. It’s healthy to admire someone’s success and feel inspired by their achievements. However, it’s unhealthy to idealize their accolades and feel unworthy.
For example, when I think about the top leaders in my field, I’m not envious (okay, perhaps a little), but I look at their accomplishments as something to aim for. I don’t view myself as inadequate because I’m not there yet.
Focus on the Who, not the What
We often fixate on what we want to accomplish or have, but spend no time considering who we want to be or how we want to live our lives. Most people are partially or totally unconscious of who they are being while they are doing. What do you want to create in your life? For example, do you want to live a vibrant life centered around self-expression, contribution, integrity, and intimacy or does your life unlock when anchored to the principles of adventure, independence, kindness, and authenticity?
We each have our own secret sauce for creating a fulfilling life, which will be completely different than someone else’s even if you are on the same career path. It’s worth taking the time to consider what it is that you want to create because the values that you choose and consciously embody become your deepest level of motivation and the true north that you can steer yourself towards steadily and powerfully while creating goals, setting priorities, and implementing action plans. You have the power to choose who you want to be, regardless of who you have been or what you have done.
Focus on Your Own Progress
If you want to take a more logical approach, the other main issue with comparison is that it’s based on limited data. The reality is we have no clue what someone’s life is really like. When we see their social media posts and feel insecure, the truth is we don’t know what’s happening behind the curtain.
When it comes to comparison, you’re essentially letting fear guide your decisions. Since our lives are defined by the choices we make, be sure that your choices are based in self-love. For instance, let’s say you move across the country for a job you’re thrilled about. That decision came from self-love. But then you stayed in that job longer than you wanted because you were scared of what would happen if you left. That decision came from fear. Fear-based decisions are the result of feeling insecure and having a scarcity mindset. This way of thinking will never result in a positive outcome.
If you’re caught in the middle, ask yourself: “Does this decision serve my greatest good? Will it bring me closer to fulfillment or farther from it?”
When I experience self-doubt or begin to worry about the future, I remind myself that I am making progress and celebrate the steps I take along the way. The next time you’re anxious or frustrated, tell yourself that this is where you are meant to be. Live in the here and now and embrace the journey!