We see it on Instagram and LinkedIn. We hear about it at dinner with friends or coworkers. We might even read about it in company-wide emails. However you learn of a colleague or acquaintance’s success, it can be difficult (if not impossible!) to compare your own career journey with hers. There are plenty of clichés to try to help you feel better while comparing, but it all boils down to this: too much comparing torpedoes self-esteem.
Human beings are wired to compare; it’s how our brains understand and make sense of the world around us – wet or dry, dark or light, safe or unsafe. And while few of us are using comparison for literal life or death survival, the temptation to keep an eye on someone else’s progress can feel nearly as important.
Most of us find ourselves guilty of “upward” comparison, or looking at our career in comparison to someone we consider to be more successful, more liked, or more respected than you. This may really hit home if you’re a perfectionist as if we needed anything else to drive us! If this feels like you, here are a few things to remember:
How much is social media fueling your comparison machine? I once heard it described as “comparing your blooper reel to their highlight reel,” and this feels especially accurate when we come across a friend’s or acquaintance’s recent award or promotion during a leisurely social scroll.
Career journeys are as diverse and varied as the women to whom they belong. Yours isn’t going to mirror someone else’s, especially if the woman you admire is more experienced, has a different educational background, or even has a larger budget!
It might be helpful to reframe the comparison trap as a chance to celebrate alongside another woman’s success. If comparison truly is the thief of joy, claim it right back to pay it forward! You never know when you might be the recipient of a colleague’s amplification.
It’s also important to remember that not all comparison is bad! We’ve all heard the phrase, “you have to see it to be it.” Surround yourself (and fill your feed!) with women who inspire you to do a better job at your job, not compare it to theirs.