In  a past life, one of my guilty pleasures was comparison. I’d look around me and see dozens of examples of women (and men) who were getting further than I was, with seemingly less effort. It ate me up on the inside, and I spent many hours feeling aggrieved and unseen; wondering why it couldn’t just be me…for once!

Maybe it’s to do with being the last child and always competing for love with siblings, or maybe it’s being a woman of colour in a largely white field, whatever the cause I not only felt  cheated, I felt a strong sense of injustice. 

Naturally this led to some awful behaviour at work, which ranged from having an ‘I can’t be bothered kind of day/week/whatever I could get away with’, to over defending my ‘rights’ within the organisation. I quickly learned that my tactics wouldn’t get me far, because a cloud of negativity followed me whenever I was in the building and I hated it.

So…I decided to change it.

I realised two things; firstly, that if I spent most of my energy focusing on others, I couldn’t make the most of my own gifts, talents and resources but more importantly I’d be limited to the ceiling of the successes of those I was comparing myself to. If I wanted to be even more successful than they were, I’d have to dream bigger, work harder and be smarter – complaining was nowhere in that strategy.

This week’s podcast about Maria Sharapova and her constant comparisons of herself to Serena Williams, made me think back to that time and I realised that whenever we compare ourselves to others, it’s rarely to someone worse off than us, it’s almost always to someone in what we perceive to be a better position. 

In addition to this, we often forget the sacrifices required in order to level up and neglect the fact that if we had to make those sacrifices, we likely would be less happy, free, fulfilled etc.

Career success is not a linear or meritocratic process; relationships are complex, decisions are made by a certain logic unique to each organisation, it doesn’t always make sense. Yet  comparisons without analysis or questions can make it seem that way. So the next time you compare yourself to someone, put it through a filter.

Is what I’m feeling real or imagined? Have I asked the right questions, to the right people, to have the full picture?

Is it taking away energy or giving me energy towards my goals?

Would I be willing to sacrifice what this person has sacrificed/is sacrificing?

Comparison can make you seem and feel entitled and rob you of opportunities to create the future you want.

It’s up to you to not let it…after all it seems a waste to win five grand slams like Sharapova and still be talking about the girl who got 23.