Even though it’s ideal to always keep your eyes on your own career, we’re only human. It’s almost impossible not to look at your friends and colleagues to see where they are in their job, what they’ve done by a certain age, and how much they’re making compared to you.
In fact, envy can be a very useful tool and motivator for personal and professional success, provided it comes in the appropriate doses and is put to the best possible use. But if you let it spiral out of its bounds, it can eat you alive—and even ruin your life.
Here are a few tips you can follow to make sure you’re comparing yourself to others for the good of self-evaluation and motivation, rather than endless comparison that will only lead to anger or unhappiness about others’ successes.
1. Check your reactions.
When a close friend or colleague scores a lucky break or achieves something great, what is your reaction? Are you a seething green monster, or are you excited for them, no matter how motivated you are to accomplish great things yourself? And when something bad happens to someone, are you quietly doing a happy dance or are you truly sympathetic for their hardship? Hint: You want to feel good when good things happen to the good people in your life and bad when bad things happen to them. If your reactions are reversed, you have some work to do.
2. Get off the Internet.
There’s nothing worse for stoking spirals of negative emotion and envy than social media. If you can’t be trusted to use Facebook or Instagram without losing oodles of time and your own humanity, just suspend your accounts. Take a break or cut yourself off entirely—especially if you spend most of the time looking at your high school acquaintance’s successful lifestyle blog. It’s just not worth the risk to your soul.
3. Only compete with yourself.
If you’re comparing yourself constantly with others, restructure your focus. Instead, start comparing your present self against your past. How much progress have you made? Enough? Too little? Are you actually killing it by this metric? Remember, you usually have no idea where anybody else began, and with what benefits. It’s no use playing a silent competition game that you can’t win.
4. Become the best version of yourself.
It is impossible to be authentic and yourself if you’re constantly looking outward. Instead, start caring more about your own personal development and less about how others see you, what they do, or what they are. Be original and authentic and get noticed for who you are, not who you envy.
5. Focus on taking action to get what you want.
You want the momentum that gets you chugging your way to the top? That requires focus, determination, and hard work—none of which you’re doing if you’re constantly in the hamster wheel of envying your co-workers and friends. You’re also compromising your ability to be an effective networker—also a crucial piece to your success. Trust yourself enough to be able to sell your capabilities and capacities at the highest possible value, and trust everyone else to take care of themselves.
6. Be empathetic.
Try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. That person whose successes have you blowing steam out of your ears is impressive and shiny on the outside, but might be harboring all sorts of hurts and challenges within. Try to see past the social media posts to the human underneath.
7. Practice gratitude.
Instead of coveting every little thing you don’t have, try being more grateful for what you do have: Your current job. Your current rung on the ladder. How far you’ve come. This doesn’t mean you can’t strive for more or better; it just means you shouldn’t dismiss what you’ve already earned.