The Art of Comparing Ourselves to Other People or Someone Will Always Be Better Than You, and That's OK

Back in January 2017, I got an email from LinkedIn – all carefully laid out, lots of nice pictures, filled with professional portraits of my college acquaintances and filling me in on what people are doing. What have you been up to? it asked me. Update your profile now!

Dammit, LinkedIn. How dare you taunt me. At the time, I didn’t really have anything to add to my profile – I’d already written in the internship I’d just finished, and my days were mostly filled with focusing on finding a full-time job.

What else could I update? “Eating immense amounts of chocolate.” “Running for 10 minutes till I reach Trader Joe’s, which is perfect because I’m already super tired and need food.”

I spend too much time comparing myself to other people (any time, really, is too much.) I know this is bad – I‘ve read enough books and self-care internet articles to know that. So much has already been written on the subject in this age of social media and FOMO.

It’s something I’ve been consciously working on, but I’m human, and I have an Instagram. Envy happens.

Yet despite the occasional moments of why am I like this, the glimpsing of LinkedIn titles and wondering if it’s already too late for me, if everyone else is so far ahead it’s ludicrous to think I can catch up – despite all that, I’ve never considered the option ofnot doing what I’m doing. Of true stagnation.

Because in order to keep myself moving forward, I have to live my life as if the option of stopping does not even exist.

Beneath the flutters of doubt, I do know that it doesn’t really matter what other people think, just like my opinions aren’t going to affect your life most of the time.

You’re on your road, and I’m on mine. Of course they aren’t going to look the same.

And what does being “ahead” even mean? What that looks like varies from person to person because, duh, we’re all different and want different things. My brain doesn’t always remember this, so I have to pause and remind myself sometimes.

So what if my photos don’t look like a professional travel photographer’s? Or if I can’t keep up with the Nordic teens on social media who somehow take amazing photos of incredible places all the time and maybe don’t go to school idk???

So what if my writing isn’t perfect? If it was, we’d be done here. I’d be off making millions helping stressed-out upper middle class parents get their kids into college with immaculate essays on the social injustices of this country (I assume.)

So what if this is the 3rd paragraph I’ve started with “so what?” This is my blog. I do what I want.

If we’re constantly comparing ourselves to the J.K. Rowlings and Chris Burkards of the world – or even the people in our lives who are doingcompletely different things from what we want to do, but look at how successful they are! – then we’ll be unlikely to get anywhere ourselves.

(Also, quick reminder that J.K. Rowling was broke when she started writingHarry Potterand the Philosopher’s Stone.)

And the people who are doing what you want to do? That’s awesome. Use them as your inspiration to get better and keep moving.

There will always be room for your success, too.

And it works out. Just like your mom/mentor/great-Aunt Matilda tells you it will. I got a job I enjoy and learn a lot from, I updated my LinkedIn, I stopped thinking about it.

Well, OK, I still have some self-doubt. But I try to use it to channel my actions away from complacency. So I’ll publish this piece anyway, and the next one, because the other choice is stopping, and that option doesn’t actually exist.

The point is that I want something that I can back on a year from now and say, “What is this drivel?? Why did I write this??” because that will mean that I have grown in that time.

So hi, future me. You wrote this drivel. Here’s hoping you learned something from it.


Looking for context? Take a peek at the first Wandering Adult article.