Ending Compare And DespairNov 15, 2022
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
We are taught from an early age to avoid comparing ourselves to others. Then, we are sent off to school, where we are ranked, compared, and pitted against each other for limited spots and resources. For most doctors, this is not a shocking revelation. It is impossible not to compare ourselves within the medical education system.
- This all comes so naturally to her.
- Does he even need to study?
- How does she have time to exercise?
- How did he get that Cardiology fellowship spot?
- How can they afford that lake house?
- How did he retire at 50?
According to Merriam-Webster, comparison is “an examination of two or more items to establish similarities and dissimilarities.” This definition makes the idea of comparison seem pretty innocent. But let’s face it, most people spend their time focused on the things that make us different. Taken at face value, this shouldn’t be an issue. So what’s the problem with comparison?
We assign an inherent value to achievements. As we tally our accomplishments, we build our self-worth. These deposits are money in the bank. The more deposits we make, the more we build our self-worth and the better we feel about ourselves. But we don’t only value the things we have. We also assign value to the things we want. And those values increase exponentially when we see that other people already possess them. These items sit in the debit column, withdrawing from our account and diminishing our self-worth. As we longingly admire someone else’s achievement, we fail to see how we define our worth based on their accomplishments.
Self-worth is a touchy area. Most of us don’t spend much time thinking about what we think about ourselves. But if you’ve ever observed someone questioning their self-worth, you will find there are really only a few options available, and neither one is great:
- Feel bad
- Cut down the other person’s achievement
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” As we monitor, compare, and inevitably despair, we rob ourselves of the joy of our many accomplishments. We fail to celebrate our many achievements in favor of focusing on what we want or have not yet achieved.
So what is the antidote to compare and despair?
The Five A’s:
- Awareness. As with all things, we must first recognize when and where comparison exists in our lives.
- Appreciate. It has been said that “If you are the best thing in the room, then you are in the wrong room.” Observing the accomplishments of others can reveal possibilities and opportunities you never knew existed. Once you know these options exist, can you be open to doing the work needed to make these accomplishments a reality for you? Can you allow the people that have come before you to serve as an inspiration rather than a hindrance?
- Allow Yourself To Run Your Own Race. Do not compare your beginning to someone else’s middle or end.
- Acknowledge Your Wins. Rather than focusing on the result or goal, can you focus on the incremental progress that gets you closer to your ultimate goal? You will be far more likely to succeed when celebrating each small success along your way to the inevitable victory.
- Accept when you have enough. Comparison is frequently rooted in the quest for more. Can you allow yourself to recognize when you have what you need? Do you really need more? Does more get you closer or further away from the life you genuinely want?
The modern world thrives on comparison. When we are “Keeping up with the Joneses,” we spend more, consume more, and ultimately lose track of the most important things. We also set ourselves up to seek external validation as we lean into the illusion of social media. But the most significant detriment comes from how we deplete our self-worth. When we take a moment to pause, appreciate and acknowledge our many accomplishments, we preserve their value and break the cycle of comparison. We also create space to examine how our goals, wants, and dreams fit into the life we truly want. And most importantly, we permit ourselves to make more “self-worth deposits” while eliminating the unnecessary withdrawals that accompany compare and despair. That just might be the most critical investment account of all.
How does comparison show up in your life? Are you the best thing in every room, or do you prefer to be in a room of people you can learn from? Do you celebrate your wins? How do you determine your goals?
Are you interested in creating more balance in your life? I want to invite you to check out my FREE TRAINING. Click here to get: How Busy Physicians Can Stop Trying To Escape Medicine And Start Living Their Best Life Today.
This training will teach you the five essential techniques physicians need to stop feeling stuck, burned out, and trapped in medicine. You will also learn how to stop racing toward retirement and start using tools that empower you to practice medicine your way.
PS. I get a lot of inspiration from music lyrics. Many people use inspiring quotes (and I do, too), but music really speaks to me. I hope you find inspiration in the songs too.
Olivia Rodrigo - jealousy, jealousy
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