Everyone has experienced that familiar pang of jealousy when someone they know seems to have it better—a nicer car, a bigger apartment, a higher-paying job. And even though it makes us feel like sh*t, we still continue to compare ourselves to others. It’s as if our success in life is measured by how we’re doing against the success of other people—rather than just letting our own success be.
It’s not uncommon to experience a sinking feeling when someone “does better”—lands a killer promotion, gets married, buys a home, or finally takes an extended trip to Europe. Yes, we’re happy for our friends, but that frustrating feeling of falling behind can sabotage our well-being in the wake of another person’s good news.
To help beat back your own green-eyed monster, ask yourself these five questions before you start comparing your success to someone else’s.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself
1. What’s it to me?
Say you feel eternally single and your best friend suddenly lands a great girl or guy. What’s it to you, really? Does it impact your dating life at all? Of course not! Sure, you might spend a little less time with your friend now that he or she is in a relationship. But why not use that time to find new ways to put yourself out there on the dating scene? If anything, it’s wonderful proof that great people exist and meeting one in any moment is truly possible.
2. What lesson can I learn from this?
When someone else triggers your envy alarm, what does their success reveal about your own desires? For example, if a friend just got a juicy raise, did he or she ask for it? If someone got fit and toned this summer, were they trying a new, fun workout class or a great, doable diet? Figure out what you can learn or leverage to your advantage. Don’t let your envy cloud the lesson that could jump start your next success.
3. What’s going right in my life?
Take a step back and remember all the great stuff going on in your life too. Envy blinds us to this completely. While you are eyeing someone’s ability to speak in public, they may well be envying your writing skills, muscular arms, or ability to dress like Anna Wintour. Taking regular note of your own blessings (daily if you can) makes you far less likely to freak out when someone gets something you really want.
4. How can I compare myself to someone more relevant (me)?
Life is long. It's not measured in days, weeks, or months—but years. Don’t blow up someone else's recent achievements into something life-altering. The real measure of success? Compare yourself today to who you were last year and consider how far you’ve come. (Here are some questions that can help you do so.) When you really evaluate this, the truth is likely to surprise you.
Your negative emotion is revealing something important to you.
5. What does my envy show me about myself?
If you're consistently triggered by certain events, your negative emotion is revealing something important to you. It’s showing you something that you secretly want too. Think of those pangs of envy as prompts, giving you a little nudge. If you're frustrated or jealous that a friend starts a side business or reaches the next level at work, it’s probably because you have a deep desire within you, waiting to bloom. It's in there, just waiting for you to take action.
Finally, cut yourself some slack. It’s common to feel that we are not going fast enough, doing well enough, or aren’t capable enough when we see people surpass us in any area of life. Comparison is unhealthy and destructive. But we can overcome the illusion of competition that comparison creates. You just have to redirect your focus to what really matters and the only thing that you have control over: yourself.
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!