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The fear of comparison and how to fight it

Written by
Gabriela Dittrichova
Published on
June 24, 2021

Comparison - the act of recognizing what s/he has and what I don’t. It can include a job title, work experience, salary, ... We are designed to compare ourselves to others but that can be associated with negative connotations. Instead of jealousy, try celebrating other people’s successes, whilst also sharing your own. Only when you summarize what you’ve achieved, can you start treating yourself with respect and admiration. Comparison is healthy, but don’t let it control you.

1. Is comparing ourselves natural?

The theory of social comparison was introduced by a social psychologist named Leon Festinger. Here he identifies that people, in order to define who they are, need someone to compare themselves to. Festinger also claims that people tend to measure themselves against those in a similar situation - from a work colleague to a workout buddy. Those feelings are intensified when in a closed group. And thus, comparing yourself is natural, but it is often associated with unpleasant feelings. So, what can you do to change that?

2. What can you do to change that?

We tend to compare ourselves in various fields - from our job title to salary to the breadth of portfolio or work experience. ‘Shockingly’, there is always somebody who has achieved more milestones or is earning a greater salary than us. Well, there will always be somebody like that! And the best thing to do in that case is to congratulate them on their achievements and recall what you have accomplished.

The easiest way is to talk to someone - it can be a friend, a colleague, or a mentor. The most important thing is to focus on YOUR accomplishments and look at your life as if from a distance. It can be a recent promotion or a new position you were offered, a pay rise you landed, or a great project you have worked on and have successfully finished. Listing the things you have achieved, hearing and visualizing them, can have an extremely positive impact on the way you feel and act in your career as well as personal life.

3. How can gratitude help?

Oftentimes we struggle to talk nicely to ourselves, and whilst negative feedback can sometimes make us try harder, it is often better to hear words of encouragement and support. And why should we not give them to ourselves? When is the last time (if ever) you told yourself - well done, good work! If uplifting words are not in your vocabulary when it comes to talking to yourself, now is the time to change that!

Many successful people start the day with gratitude. Whether you choose to write a journal or tell yourself one phrase in a mirror, think of what went well over the past few weeks / days/ hours and compliment yourself. If you write it down, you can always come back to it and thus visualize more easily what you have accomplished. And once you see it written down, I guarantee it will brighten up your day!

4. Sharing is caring or?

Society sets unrealistic expectations for us - we are supposed to have a university degree, a well-earning job, preferably aiming for the C-suite, a mortgage on a flat or a house where we can live with a family and throw garden parties. Well, hell no! At least, not in the 21st century. And we all know that we are unique, yet we struggle to appreciate what and instead we look with envy over the shoulder at our neighbors. STOP!

Instead of a jealous tone, I encourage you to be more cheerful. Does my friend work in a multinational company? Fantastic! Is she earning twice as much money as I am? OK, but how much is she spending and on what? Would the same things that they have made me happy or am I satisfied with what I already have?

5. Should I get help?

Without going too much into mindfulness, practicing gratitude can help you see things differently. Realizing where you are at inspires you to realise that a less-than-a-six-figure salary or a free weekend with nothing to do can actually be a good thing and not anything to be ashamed of. It is about your attitude, nothing else.

If you struggle to create a summary of your accomplishments, and not necessarily when drafting your CV, talk to someone who does not know you very well and try to introduce yourself as if you were a friend of yours. Speak nicely about yourself, highlight your strengths and talents, see where it takes you. And if you struggle to get started, a professional mentor can help you draft your personal brand or build a business profile.  

6. What else can I do?

The last way to tackle comparison is by joining a community where successes are celebrated and mistakes turned into learning opportunities. One such group is the Femme Palette Community - Czech and London one. Here, you can share mutual inspirations and learn from others about what went well (or not so much).

At the end of the day, we are all unique and we must choose our own path. So whether you feel like failing or are overwhelmed with joy, remember to note and share it with others. Let’s celebrate our differences, turn weaknesses into strengths and mutually inspire each other. Now is the time!

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