The Comparison Trap.

I ran into a former friend today on my lunch break, and while it’s always nice to catch up with someone from our past and see how their own life journey has been, it does also sometimes cause a twinge of jealousy. Ok, maybe not so much jealousy but we do tend to automatically compare our lives to those around us. It’s almost like a type of inner-validation, that if we can prove to ourselves that we are doing much better than this other person is, then we are somehow doing ok in life. We are achieving “success” so to speak and not wasting time being a nobody. But honestly, who made up these rules of what we must have accomplished by a certain point in our lives in order to be deemed as successful? Why does society put this pressure on us to go to college, get a high paying job, have a perfect family, and perfect life and that if we do all of these things we will be seen as someone who’s “made it” in this world. Who’s to say that the person who does all these things isn’t just as miserable as the person who hasn’t done any of these things? 

I used to believe in society’s standard of success and I was determined to make it my goal to have all these achievements by 25. But here I am, 25, and still don’t have half of these things, but yet I am not unhappy. I actually feel quite proud of myself because I’ve achievied so many other things in my life that have made me feel pretty successful that may not seem as such to others, but does it really matter? Who am I trying to impress? Do we ever ask ourselves that question? Who are we trying to impress when trying to achieve this idea of success. Is it for ourselves, so that we can say that we are reaching for our dreams and doing what makes us feel passionate? Or is it because we are trying to fit in with society’s standard just so we can become accepted into the club of success and not be deemed as a “loser” of society? 

I feel that most people do things in order to acquire some sort of validation for others. More often than not, we do not do things mainly for ourselves or for our own passions and desires, but rather so that we can prove to others that we are indeed worthy of their approval. I never understood why as human beings we are constantly striving for this kind of validation. Why do we all suffer from some deeper level of feeling of inadequate? I think our cultural backgrounds, especially for those of us living in the USA where being successful is the ultimate American Dream, play a huge role into why we all feel this strong desire to prove our own worth. 

And because of this need to prove we are worthy, we fall into the comparison trap of measuring ourselves up to anyone and everyone. Are we doing more than that person? Do we have more than that person? Are we more beautiful? More rich? Are our jobs better, higher paying than theirs? It’s an endless cycle of comparing, but the truth is nobody ever wins. Sure, you may temporarily feel like you are better than someone, but give it some time and someone else will come along who is a lot better than you. And it’s not a bad thing to be lesser than someone or better than someone, because we are all uniquely created individuals in the first place. We were not meant to be the exact same as everyone else. We were not meant to have the same talents or intelligence or beauty. We have the skills and talents we do for a reason because each of us has a unique purpose that only we can fulfill with the skills that we have been dealt. 

Earlier today after seeng my friend, I began to feel that twinge of jealousy and need for comparison starting to creep up on me, but then I stopped myself. I asked myself why I felt the need to better than her? Was it because I felt unhappy personally, or was it because I was trying to measure up what my life was compared to her and if I was doing ok enough to be validated by society? I think my reason was more so the second. I realized that when I began to compare my life with hers, the first things that popped up were, “oh well, she went to a university and now is going to grad school, gosh her family must be so proud of her, people must think she is so smart and successful. Oh she’s getting married next fall too, wow, she’s so deserving of love, I guess I’m not. Oh she just bought a $50k car, wow she must be doing something right and I’m not.” Those thoughts are so unhealthy, and yet we all have them.

We need to move out of the comparison trap, and rather into the mindset of appreciting that we were all built uniquely, and just because we may have less than someone, doesn’t mean that we don’t have more in another area of our lives. We must also take a closer look at our lives and find reasons to be grateful for what we do have and how far we have come, because in all honestly, that’s where our true success lies, in recognizing these truths. 

I read an article recently about 20 things that proved you were doing better than you thought you were (Link). Many of the reasons were things I totally overlooked. For example, just the very fact that I have a steady job and that I can pay all my bills and have money to spare, and have the freedom of doing what I want rather than fighting just to survive to get through each da. That is a blessing and a success in itself. And the idea that I have goals and that I am constantly looking for ways to better myself and grow; that also is a sign of success. 

We don’t need to compare our journey to other people’s journey’s. Everyone’s journey is unique and that’s how it should remain, otherwise we wouldn’t all have a unique experience to learn from. So stop trying to compare your life to someone else’s. No good will come of it and it will only make you doubt yoursel more, which will only keep you unmovitaved longer to truly do something successful with your life.

Daily Challenge: Stop comparing!


Christina Ciro

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