Nothing compares to you
Comparison isn't necessarily a bad thing
Admit it: you feel a secret joy when you make a career gain—a new client, assignment, promotion, or accolade—but that happiness can quickly turn to envy when you compare yourself to your peers and find that you’re somehow behind or lacking.
Ugh, it’s the worst! So why do we do that to ourselves?
Unfortunately, comparison is unavoidable; we’re hardwired to make social comparisons. Research from Psychology Today found that more than 10% of our daily thoughts involved making a comparison of some kind.
But comparison doesn’t have to be bad.
In their book Friend and Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and How to Succeed at Both, social psychologists Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer argue that since social comparison is inevitable, you may as well learn to use it to your advantage.
A key insight: Who we compare ourselves to matters—and is something we can control.
Studies reveal that when we want to feel better about ourselves, we make comparisons to people worse off than we are, but when we want to improve, we compare ourselves to people who are better than we are.
A classic psychological study on Olympic medalists confirms this finding: Bronze medalists tend to be happier than silver medalists. Because the silver medalists compare themselves to the gold medalists, they tend to be miserable. On the other hand, since the bronze medalists are comparing themselves to those who didn’t place, they tend to be more pleased with themselves than the silver medalists—even though the silver-winners technically beat them.
Galinsky and Schweitzer’s conclusion?
“Seek favorable comparisons if you want to feel happier, and seek unfavorable comparisons if you want to push yourself harder.”
Here are six ways to make comparison work for—and not against—your career:
1. Reframe your envy into a learning opportunity
Yes, it’s easy to feel jealous of your coworker’s or competitor’s success. Instead, stay positive and try to view it as an opportunity to improve. Study their behaviors and actions to learn what worked and didn’t, not to replicate their path, but to advise your own.
2. Adopt an abundance mindset
Guess what? It’s possible for you and your peers to do well simultaneously; it need not be an either/or situation. When you adopt an abundance mindset, you move away from the idea of scarcity and that progress is limited to a select few.
3. Realize that “success” is a fluid, moving target
Success is defined differently for different people, and someone on top today can just as easily find themselves on the bottom tomorrow. There will always be someone better than you, and you’ll always be better than someone else; it’s all relative. Get clarity on what success looks like for you, and then focus your efforts on achieving it rather than someone else’s idea.
4. Don’t compare your chapter 1 with someone else’s chapter 20
You’re setting yourself up for disappointment when you try to compare your journey with another’s, particularly when that person is decades ahead of you in their career. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Instead, adjust your perspective.
5. Strive for progress, not perfection
Many of those “successful” leaders you admire have made mistakes, and some of the risks they took didn’t pay off. However, they’ve succeeded despite this because they didn’t let those setbacks stop them; they used those failures as opportunities to grow, realizing that progress beats perfection.
6. Track your progress so you can see how far you’ve come
Ultimately, you compete with an older version of yourself, not someone else. So make it a regular habit to track your progress and celebrate how far you’ve come in growing your career.
A great way to compare an early version of yourself with a current one?
“Zooming out” on your career.
And in my latest Forbes article, I share the top three reasons you should do this regularly.
P.S. When I’m not writing this newsletter or comparing old Amy and new Amy, I’m a social media ghostwriter. (Yep, that’s a thing). I help founders, entrepreneurs, and CXOs craft their stories to communicate and connect better by magnifying their reach and impact. (Think personal branding and thought leadership.) Learn more here.
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