It’s really normal to evaluate yourself against others. To start exploring the question, 'how am I doing compared to my peers?'
It may be where they have got to materially. Or in terms of status. Or their family / relationship situation.
I was reflecting on this today with my wife. I was comparing myself to my friends. As an older dad, I’m in a different season of life compared to many of my peers who will become empty nesters in just a few years.
I found myself yearning for some of the freedom and time that their lives seem to be opening into currently.
Of course, deep down, I wouldn’t trade where I am or what I have for anyone else’s life.
The comparison was painful, though.
The thing is, hand on heart, does any good ever come from comparing yourself?
If you have a momentary sense of satisfaction, as you seem to step ahead of others, that can rapidly evaporate. There’s always someone who has more, does better.
And if you look in the opposite direction, it’s just as bad. That sense of the gap you long to bridge accentuates a feeling of lack. It never makes you feel good.
While it’s normal and common to compare against others, I always say to my clients, ‘stay in your lane.’
What do I mean?
Well, firstly, to state the obvious, we can’t really know what’s going on in anyone else’s lives.
There are a ton of miserable millionaires and many people living joyfully and contentedly with very little, assuming their basic needs are taken care of.
Social media sometimes offers a toxic filter of perfect snapshot moments, that hide pain, conflict, sorrow. We’re comparing ourselves to the movie highlights, not the raw reality.
Secondly, we can’t really know what life has in store for us and why. We all bear our share of pain and disappointment, but I’ve come to see that most of the extraordinary growth in my life has come from the challenges I’ve faced and overcome.
Just a glimpse at Tina Turner’s Obituary gives you a sense of these massive peaks and troughs that every human being encounters during their lifetime. No-one is immune; not even superstars…
So staying in your lane is not only about accepting your unique life experiences. It’s more than that. It’s seeing the gift that life is bringing you.
The opportunity to…
- Show more patience
- Be more loving
- Learn persistence
- Accept failure, pain, crisis as invitations to growth
- Develop new skills and understanding
Thirdly, falling in to comparison takes us away from our feeling of innate wellbeing. That sense that all is well, all will be well, that inner sun which shines quietly but powerfully within us whatever our emotional weather is doing.
If you find yourself in painful comparison, you can ask yourself these questions:
How is this comparison serving me?
What do I have to be grateful for today?
If I were to acknowledge myself deeply, what would I say of my self?
If I were being the kindest to myself, how would I act?
The short version of all this? We all operate at our best when we stay in our lane (and are grateful for it too.)