An Antidote To Comparing Yourself With Others

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I don’t tell people about this, but I used to compare myself with others an awful lot.

This is arguably one of the most toxic and common traits that plagues students and young professionals today.

That sense of being the worst person in a group, and the feeling of being years behind others isn’t uncommon.

Although I can’t say that I’m completely free from this, I’ve come up with 3 practices I use to ground myself that have worked magnificently over the years.

I’ll be sharing them with you today, and I hope you find them useful.

1. Understanding Your Source Of Emotions

Whenever I catch myself feeling an emotion I’m not proud of, I try to link it back to some sort of an scientific explanation behind it.

There are aspects of our brains that are far outdated for the modern world.

A standard example is how our brain craves sugar from when food was scarce, driving a ridiculous phenomenon where more people die from obesity than hunger.

Once I’ve made that connection, it becomes a whole lot easier to separate my emotions from reality.

Here is my hypothesis: the emotion of imposter syndrome and jealousy deeply is rooted in the fact that for the entire history of humanity until the last 100 or so years, everyone was competing over a limited range of options, and your survival and status in society depended on it.

But this is not the case anymore.

With the rise of globalisation, civil movements and technology, there are unique opportunities for everyone.

Paraphrasing Naval: 

Wanting what others have corners you to a zero-sum game, while sticking to your own strengths and curiosities will liberate you to a positive-sum game.

When you find yourself comparing yourself with others, it’s not because you are a bad or jealous person. It’s just an outdated psychological mechanism.

Rationally speaking, being surrounded by trustworthy friends who are ahead of you in life is a blessing.

2. We Only Focus On The Result, Not The Process

Today, it has become too easy to “want” what everyone else has.

But there is a cost for everything.

If your friend has built a successful business that they sold, you better assume they spent countless nights and weekends working on it.

If your friend has a ridiculously high grade, you better assume they spent up to 40 hours a week studying.

If your friend landed a job through cold emails, you better assume they spent weeks preparing their pre-interview projects and perfecting their messaging through countless failures.

Of course, there are elements of pure luck in our world, but they are rarer than you think and in the long term, honest work prevails.

Now, what you need to ask yourself is: 

“Do I want what they have enough to trade how I currently spend my time for it?”

Maybe instead of mindlessly hustling, you should spend time on what you enjoy, have great relationships with those around you and maintain your physical and mental wellbeing.

On the other hand, if your answer to the earlier question is still yes, then great — you just answered one of the most difficult dilemmas in life: “What should I aim at?”

All there is left to do now is make those sacrifices and get at it.

But I’m willing to bet 99/100 times the answer is no. This is a good heuristic to separate true needs vs superficial desires.

It’s easy to want everything in a store when you assume its all free.

But in reality, we all have the same limited money to shop with, and it’s called “time”.

3. But Do You Really Want To Be Them?

If you still find it difficult not to be jealous of others, try this.

Picture the person that you think is the happiest, the most rich and the most admired.

Now ask yourself the question: “Would I ever switch my life with them?”

Read that question again, and think about it really carefully.

Despite asking this to many of my friends over the years who always compared themselves with others, I’m yet to come across anyone that said yes.

This is because when you seriously consider the question, the first things that pop into your mind aren’t the things you will gain, but are the precious things in your own life that you are afraid of losing.

You can’t just decide to have the best parts of everyone else’s lives, even though that is what the outdated aspects of our brains demand.

Set your own honest standards for a successful life, and focus on them relentlessly.

Life is too short to live otherwise.

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