Updated: Mar 24
Have you ever fallen into the trap of comparing yourself with another person who is experiencing success (pay raise, promotion, awesome job offers, amazing life partner)? You think:
work just as hard or harder.
am more honest.
follow the same blueprint for success.
am as worthy of a loving relationship.
deserve success as much or more.
wonder what makes them so great?
You then conclude:
It’s not fair!
Two Painful Paths
Once we’ve named the (imagined) injustice, our minds rationalize this egregious outcome by following two parallel paths. The first path involves judging the other person and the second involves judging ourselves.
Judging the Other
When we judge the other person, we seek to minimize their success. We think:
They must have cheated.
They must know someone in charge/power.
Their lives aren’t as happy as they seem.
They’re just lucky.
When we judge ourselves, we seek to rationalize why we aren’t as successful.
I’m a loser.
I never get a break.
I’m not as smart/good/worthy.
I should give up.
I need to be more ruthless.
I suppose evolution hard-wired this sense of competition in us. By comparing ourselves with those who appeared more successful, we learned ‘best practices’ of survival and modified our behavior to follow their lead. Persons who ‘won’ the competition (found a mate, discovered fresh water, food, etc.) survived long enough to reproduce.
Comparing ourselves with others is a mind game we all play and never win.
The comparison game can result in cynicism, jealousy, bitterness, and self-condemnation to name a few. These negative emotions prevent us from seeing opportunities and possibilities in our own lives. They stunt our critical thinking and problem-solving skills at the very time we need them most. In some cases, they may harm our relationships with friends and family. Talk about not fair!
Two Different Paths
Rather than judging others or ourselves when we hear of another person's good fortune, I’ve found two other paths that stop the cycle of negativity before it gets going allowing me to maintain access to my creativity and problem-solving skills.
Remember: Another person’s success or achievement doesn’t reduce the amount of success that’s possible in the world or reduce your potential to achieve your dreams. This change in attitude moves me to practice authentic celebration. I intentionally congratulate a colleague when they’ve experienced success and communicate my on-going support for them. I admit, initially, I felt some pangs of envy. However, with practice, I have found that celebration becomes the norm and releases lots of mood enhancing endorphins. I experience the other person's success as encouragement to continue pursuing my goals. In this way, their joy becomes my joy, too.
Gratitude prevents me from experiencing another person’s accomplishment as a judgment of my own accomplishments and abilities. After I celebrate their acheivement, I reflect on two or three accomplishments in my life for which I’m thankful. I name the things that are going well and consider possibilities and action steps for those areas I want to improve.
You have the Power to Choose
We live in a social-media saturated world where people share their latest achievement or windfall instantaneously. We can’t change that. We can change how we respond to this information by walking the paths of Celebration and Gratitude. These two responses keep us focused on our goals and aware of possibilities. I believe they also offer a sense of peace and well-being in a chaotic world.
Step off the cycle of negativity. If you’re burdened by cynicism or self-judgment and would like a guide for your journey toward a healthier perspective, schedule a free Welcome to Coaching session with me today. Let’s explore how we can free the hero within you to release your potential and pursue new opportunities. That is something to celebrate!