The other day, I was doing what I love to do at school.
I was observing other people.
On this particular day, I was observing these two girls in my IB Bio class. Both of them were best friends (or so everyone thought) and they spent a lot of time together.
They were also known for having 98% averages, highly looked upon by teachers, competitive in school, and started non-profits.
You know, the ideal 17-year old.
I found myself comparing myself a lot to them too. It was more like “What am I not doing that they’re doing?” or “I study. How come I’m not getting those grades?” But we’ll get to this point in a sec.
Something weird happened. One of the girls got sponsored by our school for this scholarship and the other girl didn’t.
I kid you not, it was like watching Mean Girls all over again..
The two didn’t talk or look at eachother or even acknowledge eachother the entire day. One of the them was going around to other people and talking about how she was confused as to what she did and why this girl wasn’t talking to her.
Just like that, this “best-friend’ relationship that I saw, was basically torn.
Literally because of one scholarship.
At first, I laughed. Probably not the best response, but life’s funny so when you get the chance why not enjoy it 🤠
Then I reflected. I spent hours and hours putting myself down, deteriorating my own self-confidence, and making myself think I was worthless, to these girls?
This made me realize a couple of things, so here’s a snippet of my brain 🧠
I believe that comparison stems from seeking validation.
It stems from a lack of confidence.
It stems from insecurity.
Why would you compare yourself to someone else if you were fulfilled with what you were doing and were confident that it was the best thing for you?
Why would you compare yourself to someone else if you knew you were the coolest person in the world?
But for me, it sounded more like this — Why would you compare yourself to someone else who’s definition of success is SO MUCH DIFFERENT from yours?
This led to another question — Why would you spend so much time caring about what that someone else is doing/thinking, when that someone else probably doesn’t care that much about you?
This led to another question — Why would you let someone else’s idea of success change your idea of success?
This led to another thought, which sounded more like “Okay Christina, enough questions. Now go do things that are going to bring you closer to that success.” 🚀
Comparison is such a valued commodity. The amount of validation one gets from feeling superior to another is astronomical.
I believe that in a sense, validation = fulfillment. But, it’s short-term fulfillment. When your efforts or successes are validated by someone else, you feel fulfilled, but it goes away after about 5 minutes. It doesn’t really last.
Why do we sense this desire to gain validation from other people? Why isn’t our own validation enough?
Because we prioritize other people’s definition of success over ours.
Why do we do this?
Because we think that if a group of people think we’re super successful, it must mean it’s true. It means that we’ve achieved something. It means that we’ve gained respect, or dignity.
We’ve created a high social profile for ourselves, maybe impacted people, living a life that other people crave for.
There’s nothing wrong with this picture, in my opinion.
There’s tons of people that look at life like this. They look at life with this lens. It may provide happiness, but I don’t think it provides fulfillment. Some people are okay with this. They work so hard to get this lifestyle. They put in hours and hours to attain this dream.
This isn’t what I want though.
For you reading this, I’m gonna’ take an educated guess and say this isn’t what you want either.
Frankly, I want more.
Success ≠ Comfort
I think a lot of people let other definitions of success influence them because it changes their perceived idea of comfort.
When in reality, comfort is subjective.
Let me explain.
For most of us, comfort may mean being able to have both food and clean water whenever we want to, watch any amount of TV or Netflix, go out with family/friends whenever we want, etc.
For some people across the world, comfort may mean being able to have 2 meals a day, not having to walk 5 miles for 1 bucket of clean water, finishing their education and getting a minimum-wage job, having access to quality healthcare, etc.
Really puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
I believe when we compare ourselves to others, we start creating this fogged up version of both our worst-case and best-case scenario.
In other words, it becomes the matter of a perceived worst-case scenario and a realistic worst-case scenario.
Your perceived worst-case scenario looks a bit like this: homeless, hungry, no friends/family, alone.
When your realistic worst-case scenario looks a bit like this: have a house/home to live in, warm bed to sleep in, food readily accessible, 9–5 office job, spends time with family/friends
I believe a lot of us spend more time thinking about our perceived worst-case scenario, and that causes our definition of success to be influenced by others because we think that the average path that everyone else is taking is proved to work. Majority of our world is proof that it works, because most people take an average path.
The conventional path has been proven that it won’t make us homeless or hungry. It’s been proven that we’ll have enough money to live comfortably. It’s been proven that we’ll have enough money to survive.
But why would you think about life like this? Why would you think about your future out of fear, when in reality you know that the probability of you being homeless is less than 1%?
To be honest, I think it’s a blessing to even be able to think that way. For so many people, thinking about life purely as survival is the only route, but for a lot of you reading this, there are so many more opportunities, paths, and ways you could go about living your life and seeing your future.
This is how I try to look at my future.
In reality, I know that I won’t be homeless or without food. I know I’ll always have access to healthcare.
For me, I see my worst-case scenario as an office job. I might even go to say a family doctor. These are because so much of our world is already doing this. There are hundreds of accountants and doctors in this world.
I know that I have so much more potential to do something more with my life.
It has nothing to do with my smartness or my IQ, it’s literally just because of the opportunities and environment that I’m in. I’m lucky to have access to some of the world’s smartest people, and some of the world’s future thought leaders, right. now.
Where I see myself in 15–20 years is comfortable in my opinion. I see myself having a family, having a house, having food on the table, being able to enjoy the wonders of life with the people who I truly love and care about.
But I also see a lot of discomfort.
I see myself being in a position or career where I have to make a lot of decisions. High-risk decisions. Decisions that will not only affect me, but that might affect an entire company, hundreds of employees, or even a nation.
I see myself building something from scratch because I’ll have a vision of something that doesn’t exist. With that, there’ll be a lot of uncertainty because the things I’ll be doing don’t exist yet.
I also see a lot of failure.
All of the decisions that I make aren’t going to bring me prosperity and success. In fact, I don’t think a lot of them are. But I think that the ones what do work out, are not only going to impact me, but impact hundreds and hundreds of people.
For me, this is what success is.
Success is impacting people, and making their lives better. It’s what fulfills me.
Okay, but what part just doesn’t make sense?
It’s the part where we as humans compare ourselves to people who have totally different outlooks and definitions of success than us.
It’s the part where we compare ourselves to people who are on totally different paths than us. It’s the part where we compare ourselves to people who’s best-case scenario is really our worst-case scenario.
This thought process just doesn’t. make. sense. Why would I compare myself to people who see so much less for themselves than what I see for myself?
You’re probably thinking that this article is a little all over the place.
Good. Because this was meant to be a brain dump. It was meant to be that way :)
I hope that even though it was kinda’ messy, that this article added value or put things in perspective for you.
This article was more of a reflection — just some thoughts I’ve been pondering/journalling about for the past few days.
If you liked this article, make sure to follow me on Medium! I plan on posting more of these reflection/journal-type articles.
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Stay safe ✌🏽