Comparing Yourself to Others

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Comparing yourself to others is bad. But you probably already knew that. Why are you here then? To finally stop comparing yourself to others. But how do you do that? It is not that easy to just stop doing that. You can probably try to ignore it for a while but it usually creeps back in and you cannot help but feel depressed, seeing how others have their life “together”. But there are a lot of things you need to understand first. To change destructive habits, you need to change your mindset, you need to understand, why you do what you do. Why is your mind misleading you to believe in things that actually are not there. I have struggled with comparing myself to others for a part of my life as well. I wish to give you my insights on how I became confident in myself and started to ignore all the noise around me. I hope this experience is going to be life changing for you. Let’s begin with one step at a time.

Psychology behind comparison

Why do we compare ourselves to others? That is a primal instinct that everyone has, actually. Estimating our abilities compared to others has always been an important aspect of human survival and growth. But nowadays, more and more people rely on comparing so much, it makes them depressed and that is a very destructive thing to do. There are both positives and negatives in this. By comparing ourselves to others, we can decide what social groups to join and with whom to cooperate. We can also strive to improve ourselves more, when we are cooperating with someone who is better than us. But all of this depends on a mindset a person has. Because if you have the wrong mindset, being around someone who is better than you at something can have the opposite effect.

Comparing with others

How comparing myself to others helped me find my way.

In general, you should not compare yourself to others. But there are cases, when that can be helpful. I won’t tell you all the cases, when you should do that, because that varies from person to person and different situations. But the one time when it was helpful to compare myself with others was when I was lost and felt like I do not belong. I have written about that in more detail here - Dropping out of college. Long story short, I was studying something I did not enjoy, but I was not sure about it at that time. So I looked how others are doing. Everyone was struggling more or less, just like I was. But that’s completely normal during college years. But one difference I saw between myself and most of my peers - I had no passion for the subject. None. I thought it was pretty okay, but outside of college, it did not interest me as much as it did most of my peers. So I took that into account. How much effort others are ready to make just to get through. I did what I can to get past with minimal effort. And at the end, I did not even care if I fail. And that was a very good pointer that I am not where I belong. Not because others had better grades than I did, but because I was not that much interested in the subject. Most of talks outside of school felt boring to me as well. So I took that cue and left. And there hasn’t been a single day I regret it.

As you can see, I did not compare my skills and knowledge directly to others. I compared how passionate I am about the subject. It was very useful and not destructive at all. If I would have compared my grades, then I probably would have thought I am dumb and should take up a shovel and dig ditches. You need to go deeper. You need to ask yourself - Why am I falling behind? What is the reason for that? How do others manage? Once you identify that, it can be more enlightening. Passion for the subject was my weak point. I remember when I was just like you. That was during my high school years. I had a lot of insecurities and compared myself with others all the time. Putting myself down, because there were so may people who were better at sports, better at math, better at being social and so on… Luckily, I never gave up. I kept swimming against the stream, but, man, how difficult it was at times. There were so many times I wanted to dig a hole and burry myself under the ground. Mostly because of something awkward I did and reacted the worst way possible to it. Luckily enough people find me quite funny, so I could balance my awkwardness out with that, but it was really tough at times. So I was wondering, how is that guy so confident? How does he do it? Why is that girl so much better in math than I am? Well, the thing is… We are all different. Clique, huh? But do not take that as an excuse to be lame. I guess I kind of did that at the time. I just though - Okay, we are all different. He is confident because he was just born that way, she is good at maths because of the same reason and others are better at doing things because of that as well… What a bunch of bullshit. No, that is not the reason. You are not worse at things just because you are “different”. There are a lot of things that mold who you are starting from very early age. Parenting, your determination, courage and interest in things are one of the key things that make you who you are. But what if you had problems since childhood, are you doomed to be unsuccessful? No. You just need to stop whining and start taking action. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s not going to be hard either. All you need is determination and will to succeed.

Believe in yourself

First things first. You need to become confident in yourself to actually change something about yourself. But that is no easy task, as it requires persistance and time. Now I would like to talk a little bit more in depth about my time in college. I think there is so much to learn from that, because that is the time when I overcame my fears and became really confident. Kind of arrogant, actually, haha. Nonetheless I still am awkward at times, do not think that you can change yourself completely. But I am way less awkward than in my teenage years and even when I am, I am confident enough to own up to it and just laugh it off. I still have fears and anxiety, but they are not holding me back anymore. First, I would suggest you to read How I became productive and confident in myself. By the way, I believe that personal development books are responsible for me being where I am. They opened my eyes to a lot of things I had not thought about before. Probably because I was never taught those things growing up. Some people say personal development books are useless, I say those people are useless. Probably haven’t even read a good personal development book and don’t care about improving themselves. If you are feeling down and depressed, start reading them ASAP. And implement at least some of the things the authors suggest, no matter how silly they may seem at times. If you read my article above, you will understand why I am urging you to do this. That is the first step you should do. But now let’s get back to the topic of comparing yourself to other people. Personal development books took me, my skills and self belief to new levels, but before that, I had already stopped caring what people around me think, say or do. If you read Dropping out of college, you should know that already. Now comes the part where I hope to open your eyes.

Do things that matter

Success of others doesn’t matter

Let’s start this off with showing you how devastating comparing yourself to others can be. So when I started studying computer science, I was probably one of the main candidates to not last the first year. I was terrible at math, not very good at physics and had no prior programming experience. And I was also lazy and liked to party a lot. During my first days in college, I already felt like I was way behind everyone, because most of the students already knew programming and were excellent in math. But the thing I found studying computer science was passion. I actually loved it. So I did not care about being at the bottom in terms of knowledge. I knew how bad you feel when studying something you do not care about, so this feeling was ery uplifting. I ignored others and how well they did completely. It was partly inspired by a story that one of the professors told at one of the first classes. It was about how he started with good programming knowledge as well, but as time went on, some people who had 0 prior knowledge, had caught up to him, because he was very relaxed while they were very determined to learn. At that moment I said to myself - by the end of college, I will be somewhere around the top. And you know what happened? I was. Not at the very top, but certainly between the best.

But I have a great example of what happens, when you compare yourself to others all the time. I made a friend during my first month in college. She was one of those people, who had excellent skills in math and had prior programming experience. Not a real world experience, but she knew all the basics. And she was way ahead of me. While I was struggling to get by, she did very well. But that was only for a while. By the end of first semester, I was still behind and barely passed my algebra exam. But during the second semester, I had built a very good momentum for learning, I really enjoyed it. Although it was very stressful, because half the subjects were math related. And not once I compared myself with others. Although I saw people talking about complex things that I had no experience with, or had not even heard of. Or when people were talking about how good they did in math tests and how easy they were, including my friend, while I barely passed. I just did not care and did my own thing. One thing to note, there were actually many people who struggled just like I did, only no one noticed them. Because people who were talking about how everything is so easy, were arrogant and annoying people in general. And all they did after school was studying. Which is not bad, but do not pretend like you are super smart with no effort. When behind the scenes a lot of hard work is happening. By the end of second semester, my grades were not great, but I was on par with my friend who was much better than I was when we started. When third semester came, that momentum was still there. I had built pretty good base of knowledge in my field and I just took off. My grades were amazing, I was learning everything really fast and was in a good place. That is somewhere around the time of this article.

Comparing yourself to others is pointless

But guess what was happening to my friend? She was going in the opposite direction. Why? Because all she did was compare herself with me. Okay, I want to take a little step back here. Remember I said how comparing myself to others helped me decide, whether to quit college before? For me - it was helpful. But not in this case. When you do this, compare yourself with someone realistic. If you are training in football, are you comparing your progress compared to Ronaldo? I don’t think so. My friend liked computer science and still does. But that is it. It was her field for sure, but compared to me - I had a flame of inspiration in my eyes every time I got to coding, while all she wanted was 9-5 job and she felt discouraged because of me. Although I told her many times, it completely normal to want that. I had become kind of a fanatic. So it is stupid to compare herself to me. She was feeling down, because she saw how passionate I am. But that was not even healthy how passionate I was. So rule #1 - find someone who is on your level and with the same goals. Not someone who is willing to write code rather than go out and do something with friends during a warm evening.

But that was not the only reason. My grades (which is the dumbest metric to take into account ever, ever, ever..) were surpassing hers. After first year I was way behind her, but was slowly catching up. And when I did catch up, she started to feel demotivated. Because how could I, the guy who is struggling to get through, be smarter than her? I did not get smarter. I became more consistent, formed better habits and everything else came naturally. This is the part most of the people do not understand. Probably so do you, if you are here. So let me enlighten you. But first imagine someone in your field, any field, to whom you often compare yourself to and feel like shit. Now, why is he/she better than you are? “Uh, because he/she was born better and everything comes naturally to this person.”. No, no, no! This is lazy people talk. With this kind of attitude, you will never achieve anything in your life. If you have read How To Master a Skill you would not make such assumptions.

I can guarantee, either you are ignorant and not willing do anything about the situation you are in or you have no clue about how much work and effort that person has put into his skill to be someone to whom people compare themselves to. Sure, some people get a head start in some skills, but do not take that for granted. Most of the greatest people in the world did not get that head start. They achieved their greatness by being persistent through a long period of time. But you have no idea about their struggle. Some people may say everything comes natural to them, but, believe me, either they are lying or they do not know themselves, what is the reason behind their success. They might have been practicing some skill for a long period of time with high precision as kids and it may aid them in the development of their current skill. So when comparing yourself to others, think about why they are how they are. I was behind everyone starting college because I had no interest in math during high school and had no prior programming experience. Did that stop or put me down? No. My friend was comparing herself to me all the time, was starting to feel depressed and putting herself down for not being good enough. Was it because she had reached her potential? No. It was because she spent all her energy whining and putting herself down. But people do love to victimize themselves, look for excuses and never take action to change something about it. It was the same story here. I even gave her the book I recommended to you here and told her - this is my secret. Did she read it? No. So do not be like that.

Take control of your life

No one is going to change your life other than you. Ignore everyone else and do your thing. Do what you love, do what makes you happy. Gather up the courage, read a personal development book and apply those advices. You will be amazed, how easy and helpful that is. Do not look for your “safe space” by victimizing yourself and looking for excuses, so people would say - oh, poor you. Straighten your back and face your insecurities. If you don’t love yourself, no one will. Until you do not learn to love yourself, you will be unhappy. And do you think other people want to be around unhappy people? No. Especially if they are looking for excuses for any failure they have had. Own up to it. You failed because you are not willing to improve yourself, not because someone did that or someone is better at this. You are at the epicenter of your life. People who are successful know this. That is the difference between you and the person you admire. Do you think anyone would have achieved anything, if all they did was blindly compare themselves to others and listen to what people around them are saying to do? I don’t think so. How many millionaires were laughed at when they began their journey? A lot of them. But how did they do it then? They were confident, determined and in control of their life. They had a purpose. They did not listen to critique from people who are mostly unhappy with their life or were not on the same level in terms of ambitions. Yes, we are all different. But no one is better than you are just because. There is always a reason for it. If you are willing to take action and stop putting yourself down, you can too achieve great things.

Blooming flower

Take care of your own garden

In the end, I would like to use this metaphor that very well describes my journey through college. Imagine you and your neighbour are starting two small separate gardens in you front yard. The only thing separating you two is a fence in between. So you two start rushing around, planting different flowers, keeping it clean. Every day you peak over the fence to see how your neighbour is doing and compare his garden to yours. With time you notice his garden is slowly starting to flourish, while yours is still completely green. You get a bit discouraged, but, oh well, you keep working. Time goes by and your neighbour has a garden flourishing with flowers while you still have nothing much. You get more and more depressed about that, spend less time taking care of it and eventually all the flowers die in your garden. You are angry and bitter that you failed while your neighbour succeeded. In the end you stay as a grumpy old man or woman, while your neighbour is happy and enjoying his garden. And you go on and rant about it and everyone in your local area knows you as the person who failed and always have to listen your excuses. No one wants to be around people like that.

But now imagine if you had never looked over the fence and had focused on your own garden. Because, what difference does it make to you how someone elses garden is looking? Time goes by and your neighbours garden flourishes again, but you do not care about that, you go about your garden just like every other day. But one morning, as you step out of the door and look at your garden, you are left with your mouth wide open. The plants that you had taken such long and careful care of, have bloomed overnight, revealing big, colorful flowers. People from all around the block are coming by and admiring the most beautiful thing they have ever seen! You get compliments, praises. People admire you and your work. They as for your advice, as you have proven you can do something very well. But do they know the struggle you went through? Probably not. Turns out, your flowers were late bloomers. All you had to do was be patient and consistent. But if you compare yourself to someone, as in this case, your neighbour, you lose the sight of your goal. Maybe your neighbour knew what he was doing. All he wanted was a very simple garden that bloomed frequently and quickly. But you were too shy to ask and took it as something you are doing wrong.

Just like in real world, you never know how close you are. We are all different in the end. For some it takes shorter amount of time to learn something, for some longer. But that is only because of your experience and the things we did prior to that. Not because someone was born to be behind all the time. What holds you back is your attitude and nothing else. I was a late bloomer in college as well. If I had compared myself to others all the time, I probably would have given up, taken up a shovel and went to dig ditches, believing I am stupid. Follow you heart, your calling. Do not look at others, you do not know their struggles and you shouldn’t even care. Because your path to happiness and necessary things to get there may be completely different. Don’t follow the crowd. Sometimes you need to make a decision that may not seem as the most logical by others, but the right decision for you. People say the world does not rotate around you. But everything in your life does. So make YOU the very center of it instead of someone else.

If you found this article helpful, share it on your social media accounts and spread the word. Maybe someone in your sphere of influence needs to hear these words to turn their life around.

Image credits:

Roman Koval from Pexels

Manasvita S on Unsplash

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