Folks, you’ve probably heard the old saying by Teddy Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. But you should know that comparison is the thief of more than just joy—it can seriously take away from your career, too.
Even if you can’t tell by looking at them, most people struggle with comparison—and to be honest, I’ve struggled with it myself. I didn’t land a national radio show until I was 42 years old. That means I spent a lot of time watching other people around me succeed, wondering if I’d missed my chance. Wondering if I was really good enough.
But fortunately for me (and any of you who struggle with comparison too), there’s a healthy way to stop comparing yourself to the people around you and advance in your career with way less stress and anxiety. It all starts with identifying your comparison traps.
What’s a Comparison Trap?
Comparison is a lot like quicksand—the more you struggle, the deeper you sink.
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You (probably) won’t come across quicksand at your workplace today, but I bet you will come across a comparison trap. Let’s go over some of the most common comparison traps people fall into, so we can avoid them at all costs!
Types of Comparison Traps
Talent: Don’t compare your talent to someone else’s! We all have unique gifts. You can’t do what someone else was put on this earth to do—and they can’t do what you were put on this earth to do, either.
Timeline: Everyone does their thing at a different pace, and some of us discover our true passion later in life than others. Don’t compare yourself to someone who has been in your field longer or someone who has just started out and seems to have already surpassed you in success. There’s room for everyone to be successful.
Resources: Sometimes, pursuing your dream job requires a certain amount of financial resources—whether that’s the cost of going back to school, completing a training program, or starting a new business. Don’t get down on yourself if you don’t have the same level of financial stability as someone else. You can still pursue your dream; it may just take longer than someone with more resources. And that’s okay.
Story: Some people have an amazing, inspiring story about how they wound up in their career. Some people aren’t necessarily proud of where they came from. Some people may feel like they don’t have as much authority or “wow factor” in their field because they don’t think their personal story/career journey has been that interesting. Whatever your story is—it’s yours and it led to where you are today. Own it!
Influence: You’ve heard it a million times, but I’ll say it again: Your social media platform isn’t an accurate measure of your success. Someone else might have way more followers or subscribers than you—big whoop. That doesn’t mean you’re not succeeding in, or on the path to, your dream job. (You shouldn’t want the job because of the influence you gain from it, anyway!)
How Comparison Hurts Your Career
Sure, we know comparison isn’t great. But let’s take a closer look at some of the specific ways it can drag you and others down in the workplace.
It’s a waste of time. What if, instead of spending time comparing yourself to the people around you or on social media, you used your time in a more productive way—like making progress toward your goals or improving in an area you need to work on? How much more could you get done?
It creates a toxic environment. Even if it’s never said out loud, comparison creates resentment between coworkers (and sometimes between a team member and their leader). That resentment builds up and can affect job performance, work ethic and trust. Plus, it just kills the mood for everyone in the office—especially if it’s paired with gossip. No thanks!
It lowers your self-esteem. No one has ever gotten a boost of confidence after comparing themselves to someone else. Even if you’re using comparison as a way to feel superior (I would never accidentally call the boss by the wrong name like Todd just did), that type of comparison is rooted in insecurity, so the superior feeling isn’t going to last long anyway.
At the end of the day, comparison will just make you feel empty.
At the end of the day, comparison will just make you feel empty. And when you’re running on E, you won’t have the strength, boldness or courage you need to keep working toward your dreams—or believe that you can actually accomplish them.
It distracts you from what’s important. You don’t want to miss out on a strong work relationship or career opportunity because you’re blinded by what you don’t have or focused on who you’re not. Staying focused on who you’re not prevents you from becoming who you can be in your career.
How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
I get it. It’s easy to say “stop comparing yourself to others”—but how do you actually stop comparing yourself to others? Comparison can become a bad habit that’s hard to break. But there is a way!
Evaluate your own performance—not others.
Keep this in mind: The only person you should compare yourself to is the you of yesterday.
Any time you start to feel yourself spiraling into comparison, take the focus off the other person and put it on yourself. Are you more focused at work than you were last week? Are you a bolder leader than you were last month? Did you sell more this year than you did last year? If the answer is yes, you’re making progress—no matter what anyone around you is doing.
The only person you should compare yourself to is the you of yesterday.
In fact, instead of comparing, think of measuring. Those two things might sound the same, but there’s a difference. You can measure your work performance against your job description and expectations to make sure you’re hitting (and going above) the mark. You can measure the progress of your goals. You can measure the work you do today against the standard you set yesterday.
All of these examples are different from comparison because they focus on healthy improvement—not being better or worse than someone else.
Remember your vision.
A clear vision of who and where you want to be motivates you to keep moving forward. If you haven’t thought about that vision in a while—or if you’ve never really defined it in the first place—now is the time.
Take your eyes off your current problems, setbacks and shortcomings and set your sights on that vision. Keep working toward it, one step and one day at a time. And I promise you—all the comparison will fade into the background as you get closer and closer to your dream.
Looking for more practical advice on defining your vision or taking the next step in your career? I’d love to help! Listen to The Ken Coleman Show, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give me a call at 844.747.2577.
About Ken Coleman
Pulling from his own personal struggles, missed opportunities and career successes, Coleman helps people discover what they were born to do and provides practical steps to make their dream job a reality.