Compare consciously to maximize the benefits
Can you run away from comparing yourself to others?
But there are two ways to use comparison. The first is to check what’s there in the world. The second is self-pity and anger.
I went for the second option most of the time. Five years ago, I couldn’t understand why someone earned more than I did for doing the same thing.
That was my only focus.
No thought about using that situation for my benefit crossed my mind. Because comparing yourself to others is a normal thing. It serves a purpose. You can evaluate and improve yourself. But I did that to complain more and to wallow in self-pity.
So, how do we approach comparison to get more of the benefits? In this article, we’ll go through profits, traps, and a way to get something out of comparing ourselves to others. Lastly, we’ll check the best alternative. Let’s go.
Is There Anything to Get?
Years of rotting in my sauce showed me that to change, you must know it’s possible.
For me, it means seeing an example. And comparing yourself to people who got through what you’re dealing with is an example. When I knew where I was and that a better destination existed, I started walking toward it.
First, this approach allows me to motivate myself.
Recently, when I consciously compared myself to a better software engineer, I had proof that what I know is not everything. But I had to choose the right person to compare myself to. We had a similar background and capabilities. Another important aspect was a specific category to compare, so money and programming skills.
Second, I can upregulate my mood a bit.
Bad days happen, even if I have a flat, a car, food, water, and all those things many don’t have. When I complain too much about my situation, I think about 648 million people who live on less than 2,15 $ a day. That makes me feel better, not because I’m better, but because my circumstances are better. I’m privileged and should do my best to build a better future. This approach helps keep my negativism in check.
As you see, comparison in itself isn’t right or wrong. It’s about how you use it. But there are many dangers awaiting
Traps I Fall Into
The biggest problem is I compare myself to others unconsciously.
That makes me fall into traps more often than seeing profits. I can benefit from comparing my skills to other software devs with similar experience, but that means being conscious about it.
Most of the time, I compare automatically.
Then, it’s often comparing my weak skills to others’ strong ones. In other words, it’s comparing my second step to someone’s 1000th. It’s normal that a person who spent 10 years working with people is more efficient in communication when you’re shy and just starting. But I compare myself either way. And the huge mismatch makes me think there is something wrong with me.
Additionally, I had a negative opinion about myself.
The image I painted in my head was worse than my friends had. Many times, they were surprised by how low I valued myself. That makes comparison to others even more unfair.
Lastly, we often compare to people we don’t know well.
I saw a celebrity with money. I also want to have money. But that’s not all I want. I want time for myself to walk in peace. Celebrities may have that, but I don’t know.
And comparing myself to celebrities makes drawing useful conclusions nearly impossible.
When the distance between me and someone is huge, it’s hard to understand what makes a difference. Is it the morning routine, discipline, or luck? Furthermore, as it’s an unconscious process, it ends up with me wanting the life of another person. Without realizing what that life is. It’s using the appearances as a full story.
But worry not, we can minimize the risk of falling into these traps.
The Way Through a Swamp
1. Come to terms with how things already are
The absolute must-have is accepting comparing to others will happen.
There is no point in fighting built-in mechanisms. The winning approach is to accept them. Doing your job, despite comparison, strips it of power. So, it’ll happen, but you won’t have to react as you do now.
And the recipe for that is to observe your mind and notice when you compare and judge.
Then let it be. Don’t judge your judgment. The more repetition, the easier it gets.
Now, let’s get to the more tangible things. And we’ll start with knowing what you want.
2. Focus on what you want
Think about this: would you like to be happy or to look happy?
To look happy, you don’t have to be happy. And you can look sad even while being happy. The difference is when you’re happy, you fulfill your own image of happiness, not someone else. But when you try to look happy, you ignore your feelings and needs, and you force yourself to fit in.
For example, let’s review my idea of fun people don’t get.
On more than one occasion, I heard that I have no fun. Because I don’t party, drink, or dance, I must be bored to death. But I never liked partying and dancing. I liked drinking, but I did that to silence my voice, yelling about the lack of meaning in life. Now, I avoid parties. I prefer a calmer environment where I can talk.
And sitting at home, or anywhere in the world, reading a book, or writing an article is fun for me. I have fun while I work. You don’t like it?
I don’t care.
That’s how you can limit the need to compare yourself to others. Having an internal compass that dictates what you should get and why helps you build the life you want.
3. Compare consciously to maximize the benefits
When you’re aware of what you’re doing, you can benefit from comparison.
But, you need to limit the scope to what’s important and reasonable. Too big of a gap can make you demotivated, stressed or sad. I look for people with a similar setup. As mentioned, when I compared myself to another Android dev, I realized what I still don’t know. That helped me increase my income.
But when I compared myself to a celebrity, I desired all those shiny things I didn’t need to fulfill my dreams.
So, the key components are:
- the right person – someone you have a lot in common with,
- category – the narrower, the easier the comparison
Avoid going life to life and who is a better person. That’s ego-talking. Doesn’t matter who’s better. What matters is what we can learn from each other. The right comparison shows you that.
4. Measure the progress
Finally, the best way to compare.
There is one person who thinks like you and experiences life like you. And it’s you. When you compare yourself to others, it’s always measuring the gap. You check what you don’t yet have. That’s fine if you can handle it.
To balance the scales, measure the progress.
Compare yourself to your past self.
Save data on your goals.
In 2022, I wrote for 185 hours.
In 2023, I wrote for 337 already.
It’s roughly 73 minutes a day. There are a lot of writers who write more. But I write more than I did last year. My goal is 500 hours.
Instead of chasing what people want, comparing yourself to others using their measure of success, do what you want to do. Use your measure of success.
The key to happiness is noticing progress in getting what we want. And the key to despair is focusing on what we don’t have.
While comparing yourself to others, traps are so easy to fall into, that they outweigh the benefits.
I must be careful. The way leads through:
- Acceptance – I’ll judge and compare, no matter how hard I’ll fight it. But letting things be, without attaching myself to them, will let me go on with my responsibilities without self-pitying or feeling better from others.
- Finding out what I want – and following that. Having a direction makes me more resilient to the need for comparison.
- Conscious comparing – Using my wit to benefit from comparison is about limiting the negative effect of being worse and countering the feeling of being better. Choosing the right comparison target and narrow category lets me discover what I lack and not despair or glean.
The alternative is comparing myself to my past self. I’m me, so I know what I did and why. My journey is unique. To enjoy it, I must follow my dreams and desires. I decide what I want and how to get that.
The lesson is to enjoy life on our own terms. Not to blindly follow what others do and think.
To get what I want, I must know who I am. And after years of searching, I discovered the tool that helped — a personal journal.
Get My Free Journaling Course to discover who you are, what you want, and how to get it.