The Comparison Trap

by Diana La Femina, Head Editor, INALJ South Carolina

The Comparison Trap

Diana.LaFeminaI’ve written about finding your strengths, about tracking your accomplishments, and about taking risks and following through. I know some of these are rather generic and obvious, but sometimes it’s the obvious things that need to be brought into conversation or else we’ll get bogged down in details. Today I want to talk about the comparing yourself to others and how detrimental that can be.

I’ve had a hellish month (month and a half, really). 10-11 hour days at work have become my norm, I had a recurring illness that just wouldn’t go away for four weeks, a death in the family, and a rather alarming health scare for another family member. It’s been exhausting and stressful and I haven’t had any time or energy to follow through on things I need to following my last blog post.

Why do I bring this up? Because it’s at times like this that I look at other people and where they are in their lives and begin to compare where I am to where they are. I won’t go into specifics of who I’m comparing myself to, but I’m certain anyone who reads this will commiserate. Job seekers and the employed alike all compare where they are now to where others appear to be. Who hasn’t asked themselves why someone else is “luckier” than they are?

I chose the words above purposefully. We compare ourselves to where other people appear to be, not necessarily where they are. Social media presents a small lens into other people’s lives. We see only what they choose to show us, but usually we think we’re seeing the whole picture. For example, a while back I sent out a note to a bunch of friends from my MLS days asking how they got to where they are and if they had any advice. They all seemed to have wonderful full-time jobs doing what they loved. The answers I received were surprising; one person was only employed temporarily, another was working as a page.

And it’s not fair at all to judge someone else as “lucky” for getting a position. That person undoubtedly put in a ton of effort and networking to gain their position. Who am I to gainsay them the results of their work?

My point is this: by comparing ourselves to others we do a disservice both to the other person and to ourselves. Am I where I wanted to be, or where I want to be in a few years’ time? No, I’m not. But that should motivate me to make changes and to evaluate where I want to be and how I can get there. It will take a lot of work and it won’t be easy, but “luck” doesn’t come to those who wait.

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