The following is a copy of one of my most opened emails ever. Now, opens don’t always mean readers get engaged. Nonetheless, I thought it was worth sharing.
I get comments or messages from students who compare themselves to others doing much better than them. It’s easy to compare yourself to others with better grades, athletic skills, looks, income, status, or other things.
It’s human nature. But that doesn’t mean it’s always useful.
I have found it useful to have a recurring baseline of average people you can compare yourself to to ground yourself. Go to a Walmart and look around. Notice your roommates, classmates, gym mates. Go to a park, a shopping mall, or just a random group of people in social gatherings or clubs you’re apart of. Notice them; don’t look through them. People often don’t see average or mediocre people because they’re invisible.
Go search up average and median stats for income and other metrics. Apparently, the USA median is $35,805 a year.
Chances are you’ll realize you aren’t that bad. Many are overweight, with poor fashion, doing just okay with income but not great.
I’m not rich. I have a regular job. I make a bit above average but nothing exceptional. It’s tough when you see a lot of uber wealthy people on social media, but are they the norm or just the viral videos that float to the top of your feed?
Grounding yourself in this way is important because you stop beating yourself up and comparing yourself to the top 0.01% as if your life depended on it.
Maybe it’s covid or maybe it was always this way, but I feel like most people suck socially. They stay in and spend all their time on TV and video games. Some can get away with this because they don’t need much more or they’re good looking. But most are shooting themselves in the foot if they do this for years on end. Many fail socially because of their lack of experience, which bleeds into failures in other areas like dating and communication skills. I have sometimes caught myself comparing myself to extroverted, socially skilled people who seem to be the life of the party at bars and restaurants, socially involved, always making friends, and making friends with new women constantly. But am I making a fair comparison?
What’s the norm? What’s the average? Chances are most extroverts aren’t killing it either. Some can be just as shy or socially unskilled. They may just be more comfortable in a loud, busy environment.
It’s easy for me, you, or anyone to dwell, get upset, or very negative about how badly they’re doing with comparison. But that’s not always healthy or productive. In fact, a most wealthy, successful people took a lot longer to get there than you think. Many millionaires and billionaires achieved their status after decades of work and a roller coaster of a ride with a few ups and many downs. It doesn’t happen overnight or within a year. Those are outliers.
It’s tough for me to realize that too, but what’s important is progress. When you zoom out, are you doing notably better on a year-by-year basis? I dwell on things sometimes as well: Why am I not making tons of money on YouTube, but just pennies? Why am I not rich like all these other people? Why am I still not that great with making friends or dating?
But when you zoom out, I’m making progress. I got more thank you comments and messages this year than ever before thanks to my student advice videos on YouTube. I increased my salary with a job change and a little negotiation based on career advice I’ve absorbed over the years. I fulfilled one of my dreams of being able to travel more thanks to my new job. I’m not a social skills master, but I know how to find and join more social activities than the average person these days, and I have been able to attend cool club events, including board game events, a crypto event, a disc golf event, and a running club event. I’m not “there” yet, but do I have to get there to achieve happiness? Or can I enjoy the journey as is right now? Changes are that “achieving it” isn’t going to make me that much happier.
It’s sometimes worth telling yourself: it’s okay, you’re doing just fine.