This topic is mostly based on my own experiences with comparison, but also conversations I’ve been a part of or overheard (because I’m nosey and I love to eavesdrop lol).
I’ve noticed a few ways in which I’ve seen comparison happen. Using comparison as validation, becoming jealous because you don’t compare to someone else or comparing yourself to who you used to be (usually more shameful than self reflection).
The first is comparing our success against another person as a benchmark or to get validation that we are doing well or better than in life.
For example, thinking you’ve somehow achieved more than people who are still single because you’re married, people who did not go to college, or people who are pursuing non-traditional careers. Just because it’s not the path you would take, does mean it won’t or isn’t successful.
Back in 2014, I desperately needed this advice. At the age of 21 (4 months shy of 22), I had graduated with my Bachelor’s. Let’s just say I was really feeling myself.
My validation came from this checklist I created. I assumed I was a boss because I completed my degree in four years. I had secured a job in my field before I walked across the stage. My credit was thriving. My weave wasn’t stiff. I didn’t have any kids. I had left the country. I could go on and on with my superficial ass checklist, but I’ll stop there.
I allowed myself to compare my success to outside factors and societal timelines and pressures. Despite the fact that I was an emotional wreck at that time. (God has since taught me to humble myself. While I am grateful for the lesson, I’m not interested in repeating it so I try to remain humble these days).
Why is it I or anybody else would feel more validated because they are seemingly doing better than another person, especially by society standards? In reality, we should all be rooting for one another and only competing against ourselves.
None the less, it was the completion of that “list” that really had me feeling like “I’m a boss ass bitch.” And I was, still am, but it was the mentality that was attached to it that made it inauthentic.
I couldn’t celebrate my own goals without pointing out someone hadn’t completed the same goals or in the same amount of time. I was subconsciously competing against people who weren’t checking for me and racing the ‘”before 30″ clock, so to speak.
And let’s be clear, having confidence is key and you should feel like “I’m that bitch.” If you don’t then remind yourself as often as you need to!
But it has to be genuine! You cannot feel like “that bitch” only when you are pointing out other peoples failures or struggles. And this brings me to the second pattern of comparison.
The second way in which we may compare ourselves is by our lack of success to someone who is living the life we want or someone achieving the same set of goals faster.
In some cases this creates motivation; more often than not it has a negative response attached to it. Like being envious, jealous or competing against someone who is probably rooting for you.
Ever heard of crabs in a barrel?
This second comparison can present itself in many ways. Shrinking yourself when around people who are smarter, richer or prettier. Starting to feel envious, aka a hater. Becoming defensive or upset when someone shares their accomplishments with you. Making excuses of why you couldn’t reach the same goal. Minimizing their accomplishments in hopes to make the other person feel small or guilty for sharing their success. Or attempting to one up somebody with your own accomplishments.
I’ve been on both sides in a way. I’ve shared good news with people only to be met with a negative energy shifts and phrases like “you always bragging about something” or “if that was me, I would’ve done xyz.” This used to leave me to question the reason I was proud of myself in the first place. Now I dismiss it and go on about my joyous way.
On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever been hater and I didn’t shrink myself, at least not purposefully. However, I can recall situations in which I gave judgmental or negative responses. Still, I believe every congratulations I ever gave was always genuine. People thriving in life based on their own definition of success, I love to see it!
I can even recall times where I didn’t think I was doing enough in comparison. There would be a voice asking “what am I doing wrong that I haven’t achieved this milestone yet?”
What I was doing wrong was comparing my journey to that of another. What I was doing wrong is letting my insecurities surface without addressing them. What I was doing wrong was making it about me!
An honorable mention to this topic is comparing yourself to who you used to be or against unrealistic expectations you set for yourself. This could be anything from looking back at photos when you had abs and saying negative things about your current body type. To comparing your single or child free self to who you are today. Also, looking at the “before 30” checklist feeling like a failure.
Common before 30 goals I’ve heard: get married, work a job you love, have children, buy a home, have 6 figures saved, make six figures, have a foreign car, have a successful marriage, be happy, travel, be a millionaire, start a business. Some things on this list can really be out of your control, especially when it comes to marriage and children.
Life does not stop at 25, 30 or the next numeric milestone. It is a continuum, a marathon. As people, we have to make a conscious effort break the habit of comparing ourselves to others. Especially when we put ourselves on a certain timeline for these life events.
So if you’re someone who gets an ego boost from feeling like you’re doing better especially than people you went to High School or College with, humble yourself. I mean that in the nicest way possible. Humble yourself now before you learn the hard way that God will giveth, but he will also taketh way!
If you find yourself responding to people with negativity when they share their accomplishments, check your insecurities. Know that your time is coming, especially if you’re putting the work in. Know that if God did it for somebody else, He will do it for you too!
Also, know that it’s okay to show yourself and others GRACE.
As for others, you don’t know what went on in their life. Rise and grind twitter likes to say “we all have the same 24 hours in a day” but we don’t know everybody’s story or the full picture. For some people getting out of bed that day or choosing to live another day is the only goal they could check off for weeks or months at a time.
Moral of the story:
Don’t spend so much time focusing on your past self in the rearview mirror, those who are speeding past or driving slower in the far right lane. Instead keep your focus on the destination in front of you. It can be a difficult habit to break, but it has taught me to stay in my own lane.