How familiar are you with the comparison trap? How easy is it to fall into comparing your achievements to someone else’s. A recipe to feeling miserable. Especially when there is actually nothing comparable. After all, why compare your chapter two to someone’s chapter ten? I try to look up at successful people for inspiration, motivation and a goal to strive towards. I try to not compare. And yet, in many aspects of my life, I always think that the grass is greener elsewhere.
Sometimes, you just can’t help it. Just a little look over the fence, to see what’s going on on the other side. And realize that the grass looks much better next door! That’s when the questioning starts. Why is your own grass not as green? What are you doing wrong? And there you are, into the trap, so deep that you might even start resenting other over their success. It’s not their fault if you do not get what you want, but still, you blame them.
And sometimes, we fall so deep that we totally forget how amazing what we already have is. Or how others look at what we have with envy too.
A few weeks ago, my oldest friend and I sat in my parents’ garden. We had not seen each other for two years so we had a lot to catch up on. We talked about our friends, their lives, accomplishments. jobs, families, etc. Who is married, who is having babies, who bought a house, who got a new job, who got a promotion, etc. And then, I said it.
“Sometimes I feel like I am a total failure.”
And it carried on.
“You know, that I am disappointing everyone. Six years at university, two master’s degrees and look where I am now. I am happy for my friends’ successes, of course, they deserve it. But seeing them getting high pay jobs, buying houses, etc. makes me feel like I wasted my life.”
To which she said.
“Are you kidding? You have a fantastic life!”
And for a bit of context about my friends and I…
She studied law at university, lived one year abroad but essentially completed her studies in the same city, stayed there after graduating where she also got her current job. She took advantage of the very low rent prices there to save money and is buying her first flat in the city center.
I spent most of my university years abroad. After graduating, I move to Glasgow for a grad job, which was a total failure. I quit this job, got a position at Boohoo in Manchester, which turned out to be another disaster. Then, I moved to London for a job that I loved but that did not pay as much as it would have in France. In France, the higher your education, the higher your salary. Unfortunately, in the UK, employers don’t care about master’s. I have now moved to NYC, I am trying to make it as a freelancer for now but I don’t have the brilliant career my parents expected me to have after the studies I did.
Hence the feeling of being a failure and a disappointment.
My friend carried on:
“You’ve lived in New Zealand, in Italy, in the UK, you are moving to NYC. That’s amazing! You’ve traveled so much, lived everywhere! I can’t do that! Not with my flat and my life here. That’s something I may not even be able to do after I retire.”
So I guess, when I envied her life, and she envies mine.
We are so focused on what we don’t have, that we forget the value of what we have. This conversation made me realize that what I do not have are sacrifices I was willing to make when I took all the decisions leading to where I am now. I strongly believe that we can have it all. However, I am also convinced that we can’t have it all, all at once.
Because there will always be trades off.
All the decisions I took led me to where I am now. First, I choose marketing knowing well it is not a field that pays much. Secondly, I choose the UK (back then I thought I’d settle there) well aware of the difficulties I’d have buying a house due the high prices (and my low salary). Thirdly, I always put heart above reason, putting passion above money. Maybe it was a mistake, but it was still my decision.
Here’s another example. Flat sharing is not something common in France once you finish university. You’ve got a job, you rent a studio flat. Thus, I always felt embarrassed to admit to my friends that I was working full-time and sharing a flat with four other people. However, once again, my housing situation was a result of my choices. I moved to London, one of the most expensive cities in the world, where rent is sky high. My requirements were: not more than 35 minutes from work, in zone 2, close to the city center, with a supermarket around. Yes, absolutely, rent would have been cheaper if I had moved to zone 4 or 5, and I may have even been able to afford to live on my own!
Life is about compromises and trades off. People often forget about that. As much as they forget to weight those trades off in, see their impact on the far future. We, myself included, often fail to consider the very long-term effects of our decisions, which might lead to later regrets.
Living abroad, moving from one country to another, choosing higher comfort instead of affordability will incur more expenses than settling in one place a bit further away from the city center. This lifestyle makes affording and buying a house difficult. On the contrary, someone looking to buy a house might reconsider their lifestyle and weight their options. If a house is their ultimate goal, they will compromise on things that are making achieving that goal difficult. In that case, traveling.
However, trading off something now does not mean you will never have the chance to get it back in the future. You can have it all, just not at the same time. Living abroad now does not mean I can’t settle and buy a house when I move back to Europe. It just means I will do it later on in my life. My friend who just bought her flat will not move anytime soon. However, she can decide in ten, twenty or thirty year, that she wants to travel. Again, she will do it later in life.
Remember, there is no right order. Never. You decide what you want to do, when you want to do it. Do things at your own pace and do not look at what other people are doing. HOWEVER, remember that it is the decisions you take today that will determine what is possible later, still.
Whatever you might think about someone else’s life, think twice. A shiny packaging does not mean the inside is as beautiful. What you see on the outside may not match the inside. You might envy someone for their life and success, and find out that they envy you just as much. Nothing is ever what it seems.
Before I finish, I am well aware that for a lot of people, life decisions were made for them for many reasons. Either by others, because of circumstances, money matters, family pressure, health issues, etc. Which obviously makes it harder for them to go through this same thinking process as they were not sole agent of their decisions. And they should not feel bad over something that was decided for them by others ages ago. What they can do is look at the decisions they are actively taking now.
I had the privilege to make all those life decisions for myself, and I accept all the consequences, whether good or bad. I am very happy with where I am now and what I have done until now. When you take active decisions for yourself, you can’t really complain if the outcome is not as bright as expected and it was your job to think them through. However, it is never too late to turn your life around nor defy expectations.
What is your take on this? Do you often find yourself comparing your life to other’s? And feeling like you’re not doing as well? How do you reflect back on this? What do you do to move past that feeling?
I hope you liked this post. Thanks for stopping by.
See you soon,