By Perminus Wainaina
A few years ago, Ann (not her real name), took a huge risk and changed careers, from banking to HR. For her, it was a bold move that others admired but it meant several steps backwards for her financially. In her banking job, she was earning a salary of Kshs150,000 and now would be earning Kshs65,000 in HR. She felt she needed more direction and decided to attend a career event, to get insight on how others had done it.
During the event, she overheard some of the attendees talk about their successes and how things were going so well for them in their careers.
“Listening to them, I was close to tears. I had worked so hard. Why didn’t I have the same success and the same amazing life?” she lamented.
In today’s world of instant success stories and social media that makes everyone’s success visible and easy to access all the time, it can be a daunting task to avoid comparing ourselves. It is something that we find ourselves doing.
But is it healthy? Does comparing ourselves to our peers improve our lives?
The problem is that it does not.
If you are constantly comparing yourself to others, eventually you are going to find areas where you don’t match up.
Ultimately, this is going to leave you feeling inferior and depressed.
Here is why you should not compare yourself with others:
It’s Not Relevant
You may have heard that one of your friends in the procurement industry just got promoted and is earning a six-figure salary. Instead of feeling happy or proud, you realize that you are filled with intense jealousy.
In your mind, you are thinking that they are making more money than you, and you even start wishing that you could get an impressive job such as your friend’s.
But guess what? You are probably not even in procurement and have no idea how it works. Yet, it is essentially human nature to see how you measure up to someone else – no matter how much or little you have in common.
Truth is comparing yourself to others who are in a different industry or have a different background is irrelevant. It is demoralizing and a waste of time. Instead, pick a mentor or accomplished professional in your chosen field who really motivates and inspires you, and consult them on what it took.
It Doesn’t Set Healthy Goals
Constantly being concerned with how everyone else is performing is not doing you any favours. Thinking about how someone else has a large network of professionals, or people they look up to in their career, or is more successful than you because they are constantly growing in their career is both time-consuming and ineffective. Being hard on ourselves actually erases motivation and decreases goal completion.
Spend your time coming up with personal goals and ambitions that will make you better and make you feel accomplished. Set goals that will help you achieve what you want, and not just what will look impressive to someone else.
It’s Not Always What it Seems
It comes as no surprise that people have the tendency to present the shiniest version of their lives—particularly on social media. So, don’t be tricked into thinking that you’re the only one who ever falls on hard times or faces an uphill battle.
That Facebook friend who posted about finally taking the leap from her full-time job in order to freelance full-time? They are not going to mention the challenges they went through. That university friend on Instagram who’s taking some time off to travel and explore? They are probably not going to post about the fact that they found themselves in a job they hated, and now need time to reevaluate their options. Truth is, they may have put in long working hours to get the prestigious job, and as a result, do not get to have the work-life balance that you get.
Things aren’t always as they seem. Therefore, there’s no need to compare yourself to a mirage.
It’s Not a Measurement of Success
Yes, your career is a huge part of your life. But, how quickly you’re climbing the career ladder is not the only definition of successful existence.
Do you enjoy your work? Do you have a loving and supportive family and group of friends? Are you healthy? Are you happy?
Often, it seems like our peers are overnight successes, but behind the scenes, they’ve often put in nights and weekends to get them to where they are. There is always a price to pay. Life isn’t a race and everyone has their own path. Comparing yourself to others will only bring you down. A positive attitude will keep you on your own path to success.
If comparing is how you evaluate your worth, you will always be losing because it’s the only outcome is regret and pain.
In this game of life, you will never reach a point where you are better than others in every way. Part of what makes life interesting is learning from the talents of others. Instead of trying to be as good as or better than others, focus your energy on being the very best version of yourself. Keep in mind that life works out differently for everyone.
Compassionately redirect your energy and attention to your own goals and what is required to achieve them.
Perminus Wainaina is the C.E.O and Managing Partner at Corporate Staffing Services, a leading HR & Recruitment consultancy firm based in Westlands. Through personalized career coaching he assists mid-level and senior professionals get solutions to complex and challenging career issues that they are facing. Click here for more on career coaching.