This morning, my son and daughter were both painting their Santa figures. A peaceful Santa painting workshop quickly turned into a comparison war, as they both started comparing their mini works of art. Pretty soon, we had to break a kiddie war on who the next Picasso would be.
As I watched them, I realized how so many of us grow up to compare our looks, intellect, careers, businesses, down to our hair and the way our homes are decorated. From the times we’re taught by society as kids to be good or bad, taller or shorter, lighter or darker-skinned, richer or less rich, we start internalizing these messages. In turn, it becomes harder and harder as time passes by to stop this act of violence against ourselves.
Comparing ourselves to others is effectively denying our uniqueness, our God-Given talents, gifts and abilities. It’s doubting that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that no two of us is alike. Instead, it’s allowing the pressures of society, as well as our own self-imposed pressures, to not leverage what we have in front of us. If there ever were a distraction to success, comparison is definitely it.
How do we stop comparing ourselves to others when most of us are raised and socialized to do so? How do we manage, especially as working women, to withstand the demands of modern society and the influence of social media to run our own races? And how do we stay on track and on our own lane despite it all?
I’ve asked myself these questions one too many times. Growing up in a single parent family in Senegal, West Africa, being original was not exactly the priority. At the time, it was about surviving first, then making it second. Sometimes, when you’re coming up against the curve, your main parameters can come from others around you. And when you’re different, what seems to be the norm can also appear like your only parameter.
One good thing, actually probably the only good thing about comparing yourself to others, is that it stirs up a pain and uncomfortable feeling that signals the danger of it. Comparing ourselves to others is being violent to ourselves, and the frustration that comes from it clearly shows it.
Here are a few ways that I’ve learnt to stop the comparison train in my own life, and regained the peace and clarity necessary to pursue my own race:
Learn to celebrate others (without getting mad at yourself)
One of the biggest reasons why we doubt ourselves is that we fail to celebrate others. The more we celebrate others, the more we learn to genuinely be happy for others. Whenever we can muster the strength to clap for others, we learnt to appreciate everyone else’s individual journey and story without comparing it to ours.
Realize you don’t know what’s behind everyone’s journey
Very often, we envy others without realizing what hides behind their own journey. You’ve heard it before: “The average success story takes 10 years”. What this also means is that we don’t often see the trials, obstacles and failures on their path. We don’t see the sad moments, the times of discouragement, and the loneliness that has plagued many a successful person. Before you’re tempted to compare yourself to someone else, consider that they may have to pay a price that you may not want to pay.
Trust your own journey
Every path is unique, so is every individual. What you can do is different from what anybody else can do. Your contribution to this world is uniquely tailored to your personality, gifts and talents. Comparing yourself to someone else implies that you don’t trust or honor your own path and uniqueness. The last thing you want is someone else’s journey.
Gratitude is a powerful towards honoring yourself and your own journey. The more grateful you are, the more you tend to celebrate your own blessings and accomplishments, and the more you tend to enjoy others’ as well.
Being grateful for everything in your life, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is like saying: “I am enough, I am right where I should be when I should be there!”
Celebrate yourself (even if no one is celebrating you)
Celebrating others is not enough. You must also learn to clap for yourself, without waiting on the approval of others. Celebrate yourself, take yourself out to dinner, treat yourself. Learn to periodically stop and appreciate how far you’ve come, in preparation for how far you’re going.
How have you stopped comparing yourself to others?
To Your Success,
The Corporate Sis.
Author: Solange Lopes
Solange is the founder of The Corporate Sister, as well as an author, entrepreneur and CPA. She’s passionate about helping women do work they love, build fulfilling careers and living life on their own terms.