Annnnnd they're off! Straight out of University, Sarah's into her first graduate role in marketing. Becky is onto a Master’s degree. Sandra just got a promotion - fucking Sandra. Alex just bought a new car. Jenny just bought a better car. Becky just landed her dream job. Sarah got a pay rise. Sandra's rich French lawyer boyfriend Pierre just proposed to her on top of the Eiffel Tower - fucking Sandra. Alex is off on a business trip to Dubai, or is it New York, or LA? - Oh, it's all three. Becky just got a mortgage with her boyfriend. So did Sarah. Jenny is having a baby! I repeat, Jenny is having a baby!
Annnnnd they're off!
Straight out of University, Sarah's into her first graduate role in marketing. Becky is onto a Master’s degree. Sandra just got a promotion - fucking Sandra. Alex just bought a new car. Jenny just bought a better car. Becky just landed her dream job. Sarah got a pay rise. Sandra's rich French lawyer boyfriend Pierre just proposed to her on top of the Eiffel Tower - fucking Sandra. Alex is off on a business trip to Dubai, or is it New York, or LA? - Oh, it's all three. Becky just got a mortgage with her boyfriend. So did Sarah. Jenny is having a baby! I repeat, Jenny is having a baby!
Sophie's falling behind. Wait, has she given up? It would appear she's stopped to eat the leftovers of her housemate’s takeaway pizza - scavenged from the bin - and count whatever pennies are left in her overdraft, whilst lying in bed. Alone. In dirty pyjamas. She's losing. She's failing.
Yes, when you look at it like that, it would certainly appear that I'm losing the success race here (or that I'm a homeless character in an American sitcom.) Ok, so I wouldn't really eat my housemate’s leftover pizza from the bin (not after 6pm anyway) but sometimes, it certainly feels as though my existence is pretty bleak in comparison to my friend’s sky-rocketing lives. And it's hard not to get caught up in it.
We live in a society that favours speed, with consumerism consuming us at a more alarming rate than ever. That coffee can't come quick enough so we’ll order it via an app on the way to the shop so it’s ready for us to pick up as soon as we get there. The next tube is 1 minute away, but of course, that's too long, so people run and hold the doors open of the one that's about to leave on the platform. We're becoming lazy and demanding all at once, wanting everything now - no, yesterday - and that, of course, includes success.
What even is success? A list of tick-boxes to check off that society has ingrained into our minds? We're told there is a definitive time frame for success. Go to school. College. University. Get a job. Get a promotion. Get married. Have kids. Retire. Die. And throughout that, it's a constant battle to be the most successy of all successes, by going to the best school, having the best job, being paid the best wage, and being the one to do it all first. Because ladies and gents, that makes you a better person, no?
Social media has once again served as a catalyst in this race. It’s becoming ever harder to understand what success really is on a broader scope when we’re constantly faced with super bloggers, entrepreneurs, privileged and talented people all over social media. The social circles that we once paddled in have been broadened, giving us an almost access all areas pass to voyeuristically dive in and snoop on the so-called success of others. Would our parents be freaking out back when they were our age that Jane and Tom from school got promoted? No, they don’t have Facebook so they probably haven’t spoken to Jane and Tom since their end of year party. Success is intensified, hyperbolised, filtered in perennial Valencia. We’re no longer trying to keep up with the Jones’, but the Smith’s, Patel’s, Van der Woodsen’s and Waldorf’s, all at the same time. Their lives may look perfect, but for all you know, behind those filters, they're probably lying in their pyjamas with greasy hair eating their housemate's leftover pizza too.
One of my best friends recently got a promotion. Whilst I was obviously elated for her, because she’s killing it and deserved it, I’m not proud to admit that I let it highlight my own personal pitfalls and shortcomings. Am I making adequate career progression? Am I good enough? Am I doing enough? Maybe I should put this bagel down because carbs are to blame for everything??? And it's a trap. With just a few simple seconds of comparison, you undermine all of your own personal achievements in the shadow of someone else's success. You forget that you’re great. That you got an award at work. That someone told you that you're funny. You got a really high mark in your coursework. And all you can focus on is the fact that your friend bought a house, or got a 10k pay rise, or promoted to a killer new title at work. And suddenly, everything you’ve done is meaningless.
Comparison is the crux of the problem. But here’s why you need to quit comparing: not everyone has the same path. All we can really do is make the most of the circumstances we are faced with. So stop letting others success define your own. It isn’t a race to see who can become successful first because everyone’s definition of success is different, and more importantly, someone else’s success is not your failure.
I recently bumped into a friend who said to me "Soph your latest YouTube video is doing so well! It has like 8,000 views already!" and my immediate response was "oh no that's terrible... so and so gets like 50,000 views within a week" - And there it was. I had done it again. Undermining my own personal success in the shadow of someone else. Someone else who has been doing it for a lot longer, whose way more established, who I really should not compare myself to because we are very different people.
My friend's response really drilled it in. He looked at me totally shocked and said "so? I'm talking about you, nobody else" as if I was mad that I'd even bring anybody else into the equation. And he's right.
Don’t let anyone else’s success define your own. You’ll enjoy it so much more if you stop comparing and just enjoy the journey. Success should never be measured on how much money you earn, how big your house is, or how many of society’s boxes you have ticked, but by how happy you are with your life.
And after all, if success really is a race then we're all losers, because everyone's vision of what success is different.