“No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their power not to want what they don’t have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have.”
— Seneca, Letters From a Stoic
For most of us, the person that judges us most harshly is ourselves. When we want to try something new, that voice in our head tells us it’s a bad idea, or we’re stupid for even trying. Why would we sabotage ourselves? Because our brain’s job is not to help us grow, but to keep us alive. Because much society is based upon our station in life, so we equate failure with danger.
When I started my podcast, I was often worried that people would think I was an imposter. I thought if I put out a podcast about Stoicism others might put me down for it because of my lack of credentials. My partner, as wise as she is, reminded me that own experience was enough credentials. Thankfully, I listened to her and I’m well past 150 episodes.
I had to define what success meant for me. If I was worried about being as successful as Tim Ferriss, then I’d be disappointed that I’m never going to hit 300 million downloads. I learned to be happy with what I have – a podcast that I can feel proud of, where I’m improving every week and I’m learning and growing. I’m also connecting with more people each week and hearing your stories about how you’re growing.
So how do we stop comparing ourselves with others?
The first step is to understand that the world is not a zero-sum game. Just because someone else is successful, doesn’t mean we lose. The world isn’t made that way. We can celebrate the success of others.
William Irvine, the author of A Guide to The Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy says that we should be okay with our mistakes, and learn to give out praise for the admirable traits we see in other people. He says, “You may be extremely reluctant to do that, because in some way, they’re your competitors, but sometimes people do things that are worthy of praise, and to openly praise them in a certain culture is an act of courage because you’re admitting that they’re outplaying you in some way.”
When you can be honest about someone else’s skill, you can be more honest with yourself. When you remove your ego from the equation, you become a better person, and you can enjoy someone else’s success.
Next, remember the only person that you should be comparing yourself to is yourself.< “Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of — that’s the metric to measure yourself against. Your standards are. Winning is not enough. People can get lucky and win. People can be assholes and win. Anyone can win. But not everyone is the best possible version of themselves.” ― Ryan Holiday, Ego Is the Enemy
I love that we define our version of success. You can’t control how good someone else is going to be at something. You can only control yourself and your own skill. The only real measure should be is that you are improving. And remember, failing is improving as long as you are learning.
Lastly, we need to have self-compassion. When you screw up, don’t look at it as a failure of character. Look at it as being a fallible imperfect human. Failing doesn’t make you less worthy of love, it makes you human.