Coach's Corner

Comparison Syndrome

A coaching conversation about reconnectintg to yourself.

Personal feelings of inadequacy are often linked to some form of comparison. They pull you away from reality and build a constant self-doubt that can lead to problems such as imposter syndrome or fear of achievement. These negative spirals can slow down and sometimes halt personal growth while destroying your perception of measurement. They slowly convince you that your improvement is hardly worth anything against the speed and strength others will likely achieve in the same category. This constant need to measure up is called “comparison syndrome.” Social media, insecurities, fears, and the perpetual need to meet society’s expectations often fuel the problem without creating any reprieve from their strains. Luckily, there are ways to help pull yourself out of the envious and self-doubting mentality.

Experts will tell you that comparison syndrome is overcome by improving self-awareness and diverting the need for external validation. While these solutions are certainly a priority, they give broad guidance that can quickly become clouded by the comparison traps around us. From endless social scrolling to falling in love with characters in TV shows, the need to dwell on how others do is ingrained in our minds. After all, a part of human development comes from mimicry, and all leaders are often told to “practice what they preach” specifically because people will “do as they see.” These behaviors revolving around similarity lock us into thinking that comparison is a benchmark for success. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Success isn’t measured by how well you do compared to those who have achieved before you; it’s measured through commitment and growth.

So how can we actively practice the removal of comparison and truly determine non-comparative success? Start with answering the following questions:

  1. In one clearly defined sentence, what goal are you trying to achieve?
  2. Specifically, what does success look like for this goal?
  3. What does failure look like for this goal?
  4. Why is this goal important for you to achieve?

These four questions give you the following:

  1. A clear definition of what you want.
  2. An understanding of what accomplishment looks like to you.
  3. A more profound sense of which obstacles to overcome.
  4. A connection to your inner purpose.

Consider how powerful these four simple questions are when reading through what their answers give you: purpose and connection.

Personal success comes from personal growth. It is an internal sense that only competes with itself. Businesses, leaders, and strategic professionals often create goals to help you align with metric-based success, but alignment is generally connected to success. The more you can align with the requirements for growth, the more you can succeed. To remove the idea that comparison to others is required, you should acknowledge that you must define your desires to improve. The more you can understand that your inner goal is being better than yesterday, the more you can remove the need to compare against anyone else.

Once you’ve accepted this results-driven mindset of consistent personal improvement, you’ll start to remove the barriers that come with needing to compare and move to a more self-aware state. That’s when you’ll disempower the comparison syndrome enough to chip away at its difficulties.

Try entering the self-aware and results-driven state now by following these prompts:

Think of something that you have actively been working on improving. This could be a personal project, a skill at work, or a hobby you’ve been interested in. Are you better at this topic than you were six months ago?

If yes: Why is it important to you to have had this growth?
If no: What can you do to refocus on improvement with this topic?

Regardless of your chosen answer, understanding that it revolves around you and your actions creates personal control over success. It doesn’t focus on comparative results and personalizes the desire to improve.

People are programmed to want an officially received classification called “status.” In their personal lives, status can be labeled in a lot of ways, including “married,” “best friend,” “favorite aunt,” etc. In a professional setting, status is generally viewed as a way of “rising the ranks.” Examples of this include: “leader,” “manager,” “executive,” etc. The more someone is given status, the more they can attempt to “prove” success to others. The problem is that those titles create the need to compare. Title doesn’t represent skill over anyone else; it represents the degree of a results-driven mentality toward aligned success.

While status is usually a label of received approval, it can also be viewed as a negative motivator. Failure, perceived by peers, is considered by most as a “loss of status.” This is why serious commitment is often avoided. The fear of perceived failure could lead to the loss of received approval.

*Repeat that last sentence to yourself again.*

It tells you that being stuck in the idea that others are seeing you “fail” means ignoring the idea that you found growth in a situation. That doesn’t make sense. If you can reset your mindset with any of the questions listed above, you’ll once again be able to remove the barriers of comparison syndrome and the removal of perceptive fear.

Ultimately, your personal or professional goal should be to be better than you were yesterday. If that means learning from mistakes, trying something new to see if it sticks, or deepening your knowledge to improve your results, the only person you are competing with is yourself.

Stay results-driven and eliminate the need for status, validation, or comparison. In the end, you’ll find success is something you’ve wanted to achieve because it’s part of who you are.

Get articles delivered to your inbox, once a month.

Subscribe Today!