Anyone else feel me? It seems to be our default position to compare ourselves to others, in school, in life, in appearance, in work, in skills, in business – in fact, in everything. Even writing this, I hit a stumbling block and I felt like a fraud.
I compare myself to people all the time. How can I tell you not to compare yourself to others? And then once again I find myself down that comparison rabbit hole. Actually I am totally the right person to talk to you about comparison because I get it, I do it, and I have strategies, that sometimes work and sometimes don’t; I’m only human.
Comparing ourselves to others is so deeply ingrained in our society. It starts in early childhood; we are taught to behave the way others do, act with manners, keep the status quo, and conform to societal norms. It is the way we get a sense of belonging however as a child we have so much more freedom of thought and exploration and discovery of the world and what we can achieve within it.
However, when we start going to school that freedom and discovery changes and becomes less optimistic. The educational system as we know it, is grounded in the practice of comparison. All our academic, sporting, and artistic achievements, all day-to-day assessments, all the exams and tests we take, are based on matching our results to a ‘standard’.
How do you not compare yourself to others after spending the majority of your childhood and adolescence in such an achievement-oriented environment? There will always be someone making more money or having more success but we are all on a different journey, we didn’t start at the same point, or with the same tools, or working towards the same dreams so why do we spend our energy looking out when looking in is so much more fun.
When we look at others we don’t see the hard work that goes in behind the scenes, we do not know about the late nights, the debt, the lack of support from friends and family, the criticism, the self doubt and the sacrifices that have led to the end product. This reminds me of a quote from Evan Rauch: ‘Other people’s lives seem better than yours because you’re comparing their director’s cuts with your behind the scenes.’
Instead of comparison let’s focus on our own achievements and what success looks like for everyone of us individually. Life is a highway (according to Rascal Flatts in Disney Pixar’s Cars) and we have one hell of a journey ahead.
Are we always going to get it right? No. Are we going to make mistakes? Yes. But it is your highway babe, so my advice to you is always look in and see the amazing things you have achieved and the growth you have had rather than wasting that precious creative energy on comparing yourself to others.
Hannah Roper is the founder and director of The Female Creative.