I’m the type of person that orders an omelet at a restaurant and then regrets it the minute I see my friend’s pancakes. I spend the whole meal wondering just how delicious those pancakes are, questioning why on earth I thought I chose an omelet, of all things (everyone knows pancakes are superior). Then the next time we go out for breakfast and I order pancakes, I see my friend’s breakfast burrito and regret my decision all over again.
What gives? Why can’t I just enjoy my own damn breakfast? Well kids, this is a metaphor for something much deeper than a delicious side of bacon. Though I do suffer from food envy, the habit of self-comparison is also one that has haunted me for much of my life.
It seems a little dramatic to claim it all starts in childhood, but it probably does. Kids are in a sort of competition mode most of the time, whether they’re playing sports from a very young age or striving for attention in a crowded classroom. People compare grades after every test or assignment, just to make sure they did better than at least one of their peers. And in high school, the intensity continues as hundreds of students strive to be valedictorian or president of the honor society.
To compound that tense mindset, when it comes down to grades and college acceptance, the success of your peers really could mean failure for you. Because if someone gets a higher grade than you in math, that means your GPA could look less impressive in comparison. Which results in a lost scholarship, no college acceptance letters, or other rejections that, in a teenager’s eyes, are life-ending.
It wasn’t until college that I started to unfurl my clenched fist of competition and question myself: why did I get so angry when someone else received recognition or achieved? Somehow, I had come to believe that if someone else was succeeding, it meant I must be failing. And once I identified that own mentality within myself, I was finally able to step away from the rivalry that I had made my life into.
The truth is, others’ success does not equate to your failure.
And of course it’s normal to get jealous, but coveting what others have achieved only makes you lose focus on your own goals. It’s not easy, but take yourself out of the equation when you see someone succeeding. Each individual is just that—individual in their dreams, personal journey, and achievements. Comparing yourself to someone else is immeasurable and will only lead to your own dissatisfaction.
Only once you take your eyes off someone else’s plate will you finally be able to enjoy your meal and feel satisfied.