Will I Ever Catch Up?
He put his head in his hands. We had only just sat down in a small café. It seemed that this was one time that I should not speak, so I let the silence drift between us mixing with the steam off my coffee mug. My friend had asked for this meeting, but I didn’t know what he wanted. The noises all around us dimmed when he finally looked up at me and explained. “Every time I start to feel like I am about to really achieve something, I don’t know what happens. I give up.”
I was surprised. He was successful. I’m not a psychologist, but it didn’t appear he was depressed so much as needing a boost of confidence. Our conversation continued back and forth until a theme started to emerge.
My friend consistently compared himself to others who were, in his opinion, doing better, achieving more, and advancing faster. He didn’t feel he could “catch up” to them. The reality, of course, was that no one expected him to “catch up.” He was doing well. What was his real issue?
Recently, I heard that only 12% of women over 50 are satisfied with their bodies. 40% of men are dissatisfied with their appearance. And the vast majority of us would change something about our physical appearance if we could. We compare ourselves to airbrushed models and feel less attractive.
Why are we so discontent? Why do we unfairly compare ourselves to others?
There’s always someone richer, stronger, faster, smarter, or more talented, more polite, or more attractive. There are likely also people poorer, weaker, slower, less intelligent, with less talent, manners, and looks. Comparing ourselves to others can be debilitating in more ways than we realize.
Don’t Compare Up
When we look at someone else who has what we don’t have, we are “comparing up.” What does this do? It robs us of joy. It depresses us. It makes us feel bad about ourselves, lowers our self-esteem. We may give up on our goals, thinking “Well, I could never compare to him” or “If she is that good, why should I even bother?” We become less productive. It slows us down. We spend so much time comparing that we find we aren’t doing. It invites envy, the insidious emotion, to a prominent place at the table of our mind.
Don’t Compare Down
There are times we “compare down.” We look at someone and feel sorry for him. We hear about someone and think she doesn’t have what I have. Whether it makes us feel better or superior, we have all had moments where we look at someone else as not as good as we are. While we pat ourselves on the back for being so brilliant, we actually are filling our mind with a cancerous attitude. Arrogance creeps quietly into the room of our mind, an unnoticed intruder taking over.
“We’d achieve more if we chased our dreams instead of our competition.” -Simon Sinek