Why you need to stop comparing your career to others
There are all kinds of obstacles that you will encounter during your career development. There are various logistical, financial and psychological challenges involved in pursuing a career that coincides with your untapped potentialities, passions and values. However, there is one obstacle that is often under-estimated; and that’s the tendency to constantly compare one’s career path to others’. Social media only intensifies this whole process, since the Facebook News Feed, for example, lets you to compare yourself to so many other people, so easily, and in a very in-your-face kind of way.
When you start comparing your life to others’, you can trip yourself up. You can end up thinking that other people’s lives are perfect, and that you are lagging behind. This isn’t to say that you should totally ignore what others are up to, and that social comparisons have no value. But we do have to be careful about allowing these comparisons to negatively affect our well-being and, in turn, hinder our career development.
A study carried out by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that as Facebook interaction increased, self-esteem decreased. There are gender differences, however. This relationship held stronger for women than it did for men.
In terms of careers, you may see someone post a status update about a new job or promotion, notice their update get 100+ likes, read all of the congratulatory comments, and immediately feel that this person is a success and that you’re a failure. We tell ourselves we should be happy for them, but their ‘perfect’ job only causes us envious pain.
These feelings of envy and low self-esteem are borne out by cultural standards and the competitive nature of society, in which jobs define so much of our self-worth. Social media magnifies these effects. It’s important to remember this. Once you realise that your self-esteem can be significantly affected by external factors, you can choose how to relate to those outside forces. To gauge success by your own standards and values is more conducive to a healthy, stable sense of self-worth than peering into the lives of others’ for validation, or rejection.
Low self-worth is at the heart of low confidence. It makes us doubt our abilities and talents, which stops us from pursuing our goals. When we tell ourselves, ‘I’m not good enough’ it stops us from acting. The success of others can be a great source of inspiration, if you appreciate the hard work and discipline that got them to where they are. But as soon as you start comparing their career to yours in a way which tends towards negative self-judgement, it’s going to suck the motivation out of you.
We never get the full picture
Facebook can decrease how much we value ourselves because it presents us with an unrealistic portrayal of people’s lives. Okay, so you saw someone post an update about getting the job of their dreams; and all of those exclamation marks and emojis make it seem that way.
But what about all of the information they left out of their status, such as salary, length of commute, hours, and all the mundane duties they have to do? In addition, what’s it like when they actually start their job? Do they have a tyrannical, micromanaging boss? Or nasty co-workers? Is their job actually extremely stressful? These are all factors which people rarely want others to know about on social media, since it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of a perfect life.
So while you may compare your career to other people’s – whether it’s through the medium of social media or in your daily social interactions – keep in mind that you never hear the full story. No career is perfect. Each one involves trade-offs. Higher salary may mean more stress, while a less stressful job may mean more mundane work. Find the career path that is most beneficial for you, not the one which you judge to be the most ideal based on your evaluation of others.
Everyone is progressing in their own way
Each person’s career path is a personal one: it entails circumstances, challenges, mistakes, successes, rewards and experiences that are particular to the individual in question. However, when we start comparing our situation to our peers, we may start to think that we’re lazy by way of contrast.
Say, for example, you’re a struggling writer and you notice someone from your university is already an established writer, with work published in national newspapers and on popular websites. Since they’re the same age as you, you judge that they’re simply a better writer than you are. You say to yourself that you clearly lack the dedication, passion and talent that you need to make it as a successful writer.
And once again, your insistence on juxtaposing your life to others makes you feel worse about yourself. Everyone has different external and internal challenges to overcome, and no one is born with the exact same set of advantages and disadvantages in life. Even if it were true that you are lazier than someone else, this laziness is just an extra personal hurdle to jump over.
Progress is not about where you think you should be in relation to someone else – it’s more about how you learn and grow as an individual. So don’t be so hard on yourself in your career path. Don’t add pressure and strain into your life by looking at someone’s LinkedIn profile and then feeling embarrassed about what you’re doing. You’re doing just fine, figuring it out in your own time and in your own way.