Stop Being Who You’re Not: Four Reasons Not to Compare Yourself to Others

“The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reels.” –Steven Furtick, American pastor and bestselling author.

Comparing yourself to other people can serve as a potent form of self-motivation, driving you to new heights of accomplishment. It can also make you purely miserable.

In my 2010 book SuperCompetent, I coined the title term to describe highly successful workers at the top of their game, who always do their best to improve their personal and team productivity. This term doesn’t necessary apply to celebrities just because they are celebrities or business people just because they are rich.

Daily, we hear of people like Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg, Bill Gates, Marissa Mayer and others who have significantly shaped their industries. However, success often comes at great cost. You don’t want to necessarily compare yourself to well-known people, because their idea of a “half day of work” could be 8 hours.

Good reasons to avoid comparing yourself to others include:

  1. You lack their depth of support. No one succeeds alone, even when they like to pretend otherwise. For example, Thomas Edison loved to toot his own horn, but he had a large team of researchers and support staff in his labs. I doubt you have a whole company standing behind you to provide the support that Edison, Musk, Gates, and their equivalents do. Sure, they might be geniuses and have the stamina of Titans. However, perhaps their greatest skill lies in their ability to find a trustworthy, talented group of individuals to support their visions and help them achieve wonders.

  2. You don’t really see their failures. As cocky as he was, even Edison admitted he failed more often than he succeeded. But he reframed his “failures” as what they really were: attempts that didn’t work. He tried for years to perfect a decent light bulb before he finally succeeded, using first a carbon filament, and later, a tungsten one. Estimates of his unsuccessful attempts vary between three thousand and ten thousand depending on the source. When asked about them, he refused to call them failures—he was simply closing off useless avenues of research. He celebrated only the successes. Do the same. Don’t compare your daily process to someone else’s highlights. You’ll always fall short.

  3. We all have different limitations. Jackie Joiner-Kersee can run very fast. Steve Wozniak has an innate ability to understand computers. But I suspect both have things they don’t do well. Even within our specialties, we’ve all had our failures. You probably don’t know their limitations, though, because you don’t hear about them. Meanwhile, you’re painfully aware of your own. But don’t let that stop you; we all have our bad points. To name just a few: Frank Lloyd Wright was a wonderful architect, but he was a horrible father. Mozart could pluck melodies out of the air, but he often acted boorish toward others. Edison was a dictator in his labs, and he didn’t like to bathe often. You can be a genius but still not perfect in every way.

  4. Harping on it can irreparably wreck your self-esteem. Comparing your low points and day-to-day existence to someone else’s high points makes no sense. First off, you don’t see all the hard work they put in to get where they are now. You also can’t see all the failures, low points, and just plain boring days they experienced. When you look on Facebook and Instagram at how wonderful other people’s “highlight reels” are and how bad your day appears in comparison, you’re just beating down your own confidence and self-esteem. Don’t play that game! Once you’ve wrecked those, they’re tough to reconstruct… and there’s no reason to wreck them in the first place. You’re you. Be you.

Coming in Last

Comparing yourself to others has been called “a race you never win,” not least because those you compare yourself to will always keep accomplishing new things until they die… and there are always more people to compare yourself to! You rarely see the bad times. We don’t know the lows of our role models until they’re impossible to miss. Everyone thought Robin Williams, the famous comedian, was on top of the world until he died by his own hand, unable to bear a Parkinson’s diagnosis. We all have our ups and downs, and no one is perfect, not matter how it may seem. The only person you should compare yourself to is your earlier self. So be yourself and show everyone how amazing you are.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

© 2019 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.

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  1. B. Yaekle says:

    This post s/b shared with teens and others who live on FB and only see the good things in other people’s lives. Great lesson for us all!