Comparing Yourself with Others: You'll Lose Every Time

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It’s taken me years to get a handle on the concept of staying in my own lane and not comparing myself to other people. I’m still a work in progress when it comes to this, but I’m much better at it than I used to be.

As an ambitious and driven person, I try to surround myself with other successful, driven people. The problem is, I’ve always had a bad habit of comparing myself to them.

My roommate senior year was gone, what seemed like, every other weekend presenting the research she’d done in her major at regional and national conferences around the country. Meanwhile, I was beating myself up over the fact that I had failed two classes I needed to even complete my major.

My Big Sister in my sorority graduated summa cum laude, and is currently in grad school. Compared to her, I’m “losing” because not only did I take five years to complete college, but I had a GPA that wasn’t nearly as stellar, and I’m not in grad school.

One of my friends just got a great job with a nonprofit organization in D.C., negotiated a higher salary after accepting the position, and will be moving there in a few weeks. Compared to her, I’m “losing” because I’m working an entry level job and still living at home.

I was devastated when I found out I would have to return to college for a fifth year. Although there were many extenuating circumstances that were beyond my control during my first senior year (including a bout with depression), I felt like a failure because I wasn’t able to finish school with the class I had started with. I thought to myself, everybody has issues at some point, yet everybody else finished on time. Why couldn’t I?

What I didn’t realize at the time and what I’ve come to learn now is, if you feel like you’re “behind” others or aren’t doing as well as they are, there might be a reason for it that you can’t see immediately.

I didn’t realize that the extra year spent in school was what I needed to reignite my passion for writing and gain the tools I needed to be able to pursue my writing dreams. During that extra year, I took every English class I could fit in my schedule, and stayed in my Career Services office trying to find an internship. I am now working two writing internships along with my job and couldn’t be prouder of myself for making the best of what initially appeared to be a bad situation.

Had I spent that time continuing to wallow in my disappointment and compare my lack of progress to those of my peers, I know I would not have been able to turn the situation around and make it benefit me. A simple (but certainly not easy) shift in perspective allowed me to see that I was right where I needed to be for what I was supposed to be doing.

I look at the people around me and see all that they’ve accomplished, and it used to be that I would automatically begin to compare myself and what I’ve done with everything they’d done. The result was often that I’d end up feeling inferior. That’s usually what happens when you try to size yourself up against others. There’s always going to be someone who’s accomplished more, experienced more, been more places, and seen more things than you.

What I’ve come to learn is this: everyone is on their own path and will therefore be at different stages in their lives. This will sometimes mean that you are not as far along as others. I have learned that this is not a good or a bad thing; it is simply something to accept. The comparison game is a dangerous one. It can have you killing your self-esteem over nothing.

Beating yourself up because you’re “less accomplished” than someone else, or being jealous of their success, does little more than make you feel bad about yourself and waste the time and energy you could be using to get where you want to be.

You are exactly where you are meant to be in your personal journey. Be confident that the work you’re doing will get you where you’re supposed to go.


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Fear of Flying: The Quarter Life Crisis
Identity Crisis: Unanswered Questions of Young Black Womanhood

Briana Gunter is a twenty-something aspiring writer searching to find her niche in the world of words, and in the world in general. She enjoys anything that allows her to express her creativity, be it music, writing, or crafting, and jumps at any opportunity to learn something new. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @DiamondCut1902 for her daily thoughts and musings.

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