Comparing yourself with others? Don't. There's a better way.
Ever feel like you're a joke? Let me tell you why and how you should instantly stop comparing yourself with others and focus on - yourself.
Today I'm addressing something important. I advise you to think about this one super hard because it could be that one thing that's keeping you from succeeding in business, life, relationships... I mean, sometimes comparing myself to others can push me into some seriously deep chasms of depression.
Let's jump into it together...
We're all comparing ourselves with others
If we're honest with each other for a moment I really think we all tend to compare ourselves to others. This is - in my opinion - quite normal. I mean how else can we understand ourselves and our position in the world unless we compare ourselves with others? Right? Well I think it might be wrong. We really don’t have to.
I could really end the video right here as that’s my entire point. But, I really really HAVE TO dive deeper into this one, if for no other reason, because a dear friend asked me to do it. Yes, M, this one is for you.
Also, a quick disclaimer, if you’re like a super competitive person who draws motivation from comparing with others, and can - in retrospect - confirm this has a positive influence to you, feel free to 100% bash me in the comments section of the video or somewhere on the interwebs. It’s clear, we’re all different and work in different ways. However, I do want to point out that I myself am a very competitive person and can very much use the output of comparing myself with others to succeed at things but - unfortunately for me - it comes with some baggage, which kinda made me just stop doing it because I can’t really properly process and handle the extra weight. If you can, you're sigma or something and that's awesome.
The output of comparing ourselves to others
Let’s analyse together what the output of comparing ourselves with others can be and what kind of effects it can have on us...
Comparing with others can set the bar. We're comparing our relative success at something with someone else's and it's likely healthier for the person in our comparative lens to be someone who has more success than us. They raise the bar for us and make us realise we could be more. On the other end it can also make us feel better, right, if we're comparing ourselves with someone less successful for example.
In theory, comparison that sets the bar high could be good and productive, as it makes us strive for more and better, and comparison that tells us we've made it - as in we've had success where others didn't or had less of it - can make us feel good, because we made it. But it sucks in a way. Because what we're doing is measuring our own achievements through someone else's success or failure. We're not in control.
We're not in control?
What can not being in control mean for us? Let's see. What if the bar is too high? As in we're comparing ourselves with Elon Musk. I can see people I know that would draw motivation from this, as they have crazy ambition, but I can also see people getting super depressed because the kind of success this guy has is unattainable to 99.99% of the population.
And when can we tell we've done enough. Or if we're looking at the person "below us" in terms of success, how do we know we should feel good about it or not, as in what is the right measure of success. It's not hard, it's impossible.
To maintain a balanced level of sanity, motivation, ambition, we have to make how many comparisons daily? With how many people? How much time will this take? How much will it eat into our life-work balance? And where is it gonna leave us emotionally? See where I'm going with this? I feel like I am losing control over my time and what I will invest it in when I keep doing this...
Compare you with - you
I will now dare to quote a controversial person, because I like the quote and agree with it:
Yes Jordan Peterson pretty much nailed it. This is, in my opinion, great advice. I would like to improve upon it tho:
Because our perception as well as the perception of our peers, matters. The way we and our close friends and social circles see someone matters. And here lies the problem. If one asked me to describe the online world to them I'd say just download Instagram and you'll know. Everyone's fake there. I mean, almost...well everyone. And Instagram is just a focused version of what the entire Internet is. Look at company About Us pages with their missions and visions... Look at how people describe themselves on LinkedIn, Twitter, how YouTubers have these perfect offices and video backgrounds with soft lights ... it all looks great, but it's build to be perceived as great.
Add our own ideals and biases to the mix... When we're comparing ourselves with who someone else is today, we're really comparing ourselves with whom we perceive they are today which is shaped by the way they present themselves, how others present them and it's likely fake, we're lying to ourselves.
So isn't it better, easier, to compare us today with us yesterday, as Mr. Piterson would suggest? And also isn't it less fake because we know the inner workings of the yesterday's us, where we really don't and can't know the same for others.
Competition is good, but...
People with good standing and reputation in the Software as a Service world will tell you that competition is generally good for you. And I couldn't agree more. I mean if you have competitors you've probably got the product market fit all right or you know there's audience for what you're trying to sell. But it's only as good as you can make it to improve yourself and your offering.
Sometimes, as we're comparing ourselves with our competitors we tend to copy them. Because they have something we don't. They did something we didn't. And in one way or another, if envy takes charge, or greed, we'll copy. We'll go ahead and do the exact same thing they do, it might even look better, it might even be better presented...but it's not us. We're not in control.
I can totally agree with that saying that wise people copy. But copying can only get us up to a point. If we didn't improve upon whatever shiny glittering piece of functionality we've noticed with our competitor, if we didn't provide more value to the user or made it more accessible, we might remain just that, copycats. This is clearly that moment where someone else sets the goals, gives us the scorecard, and we fall into a trap of playing someone else's game.
Recipe to improve
Let's talk about a potential way to improve this process... a recipe if you will...
It's all about us, not others. Right? Imagine spending the time you'd usually spend comparing yourself with others, on doing retrospective and comparing yourself with - you. It provides a good enough platform for self-improvement. Why? Because it facilitates setting your own expectations of yourself in an optimal way. What does that mean? Well it means you probably won't compare yourself with Elon Musk who built Tesla and SpaceX after he had other successes, and set the bar and expectations so high that it seems like you're trying to build a house starting with the roof. Running before you've learned to walk. No, by applying continuous retrospective, you can to manage what your next expectation will be. You can set your own goals, make your own rules.
Therefore the recipe for improvement through retrospective, rather than comparison with others, would be:
Optimize your expectations, set your own pace, and keep raising the bar.
Additionally, let's not forget to - at least from time to time - settle for good enough, because perfect will continuously and very successfully elude us, forever.
Playing outside of our comfort zone
There is a small trap we could find ourselves in when we're operating in a closed system, in a closed loop if you will - of comparing ourselves to ourselves only. And it should be obvious: it's the danger of us creating, maintaining and never leaving the comfort zone.
If we remain in our comfort zone, we're dead in the water. Why? Because any and all growth actually happens outside of it. If we wish to grow, we have to challenge ourselves on a regular basis, call ourselves out to play outside of that comfy bubble.
And it might be that the right way to do this is to leverage other peoples' successes and achievements to do the calling out part. I mean am I saying now that we should compare ourselves with others, what? Well yes and no... Let me explain...
It comes with a serious "if". If we can handle it, we should do it. If we can't handle it, we can learn how to handle it or just learn to be better at handling it. And we don't have to do it all the time! We can just use it to venture outside of our comfort zone from time to time to make sure we have a good platform for personal growth.
We ARE in control!
I'm ending this one with a super important message from me to all the other "me's":
There will always gonna be someone more good looking, with more money, a better brand and a bigger business. But it doesn't matter because we don't need someone else's scoreboard to run our personal development. We're not threatened by other people's success.
We can and should be in control, and we can set the bar. We don't need a life coach, a gury or our peer to tell us what to do.
We're grownups, we can decide who we want to be and make it happen. We can handle the responsibility of failure. We know it's just temporary.
We get one chance here on Earth. Let's play our own game.