We all have that friend or some of us have several. She found her calling AND she has the time to make Pinterest-inspired projects with her kids that don't go directly in the trash. He's received three promotions in three years and he just ran his fifth marathon. What the what? She became a career coach at the same time as you and she's already been on every podcast under the sun (all hypothetical, people!).
When we begin to compare ourselves to these seemingly perfect people, we only see the good stuff. And with social media inundating us with updates every moment and in every direction, we can't escape these perfectly Instagram-able lives that frankly, make us want to call it a day. But you can't. And you won't. Not on my watch, friends!
Here are three ways I've helped clients kick the career comparisons habit in exchange for a life they're proud to be living.
1. Recognize the perfection is perceived
I coach impressive, high achieving, polished humans—who have fears and flaws. This work has reminded me that no matter what your title is, where you went to school or how perfectly adjusted your child may seem in public—you inevitably have fears and flaws—they simply appear in different ways for different people. And when you see the social media posts that make you want to hurl, remember—you're seeing the visual version of that person's elevator pitch. They've packaged this nugget for you and thousands of followers with filters and multiple takes. These snaps are not their lives. They are mere moments in a mix of ups and downs that makes up a human life. In knowing this, I've grown my capacity for empathy and compassion for others that instantly removes the power of comparisons when they arise. It still takes reminding myself, because again—I'm human with fears and flaws—but with practice, I'm able to get myself out of that insecure, comparative place quicker than I ever thought was possible.
2. Lead with curiosity
If you keep running into someone who seems like she's got it going on, the odds are that there's more to it than what you're seeing. Instead of stewing in comparisons, ask her how she got to where she is? Set up time with her for coffee or a drink so you can dig into hearing her story, the obstacles she's overcome, how she overcame those challenges and where she gets her support and inspiration. There's so much you can learn from this person who you've already admitted has something you want. The moment we turn the comparative energy into an opportunity to learn, we can get into action around creating the kind of lives we want—instead of scolding ourselves for what we don't have.
3. You do you
You don't want what he has. Right now, you think you do, and I get that. Truly, you want what YOU want, but the trick is figuring out what that is! Often when I see people struggling with comparisons, it's because they haven't done the internal reflection or the experimenting to figure out what it is that they, themselves want for their careers or their lives. This can be a process where you accept a period of uncertainty and "not knowing" — and you may go through it several times in your life—but it's a critical piece of living a life where you feel authentically who you are. When you are living someone else's dream, whether it's safe or brings you a ton of cash or esteem—it will always feel hollow. But if you take risks and experiment with different paths only to stumble on one that feels right and then begin to gain momentum and connect with a part of you that you didn't know existed—take it from me—there's no better feeling.
Now that you have this framework, when your next comparison arises, I challenge you to ask yourself, "How can I learn from this person?" Or "What can I do to better connect with what I want in MY life right now?" And even better, "How can I look at this person as human, with fears and flaws?" Notice how you begin to take back your power (and don't be so quick to give it up next time)!