On Comparison

This piece originally appeared on Bed Crumbs.

I did something bad last night.

I did this thing that I do too often that is terrible and counterproductive and probably not very healthy. I did this thing that everybody warns me to stop doing, but I can’t.

I compared myself to others.

Last night, I stayed up until nearly 2 a.m., hours after I had taken melatonin, long after I should have passed out. I should have turned my computer off, turned on my sleep playlist, and closed my eyes. Instead, I found myself spiraling through a dark hole of the internet that hosts the LinkedIn profiles and resumes and clips of all of my peers — who are, in a way, all of my competition, as well.

Suddenly, after a week of feeling great about myself, feeling like I had settled in and was doing great work at my new job, feeling like I had amazing friends, feeling like I was doing pretty alright for 24, I felt like a complete and utter failure.

This is something I’ve done for as long as I can remember. X is prettier than me, so I am ugly. Y is skinnier than I am, so I’m fat. Z gets better grades than I do, so I’m stupid. And it’s something that’s not fun, but I don’t know how to stop. In the age of the internet, I find it even harder to.

Last night I found myself at that place. I was reading article after article by the girl I almost replaced at another publication. I looked at the body of work she has produced, the quality of it all. And then I looked at mine. The handful of post-graduate projects and freelance pieces and the irregularly updated blog. I couldn’t understand how I was even picked as possibility to do the job she had done, let alone gone through several rounds of interviews as a serious contender.

I felt sick. I felt hopeless. I cursed myself for having a social life in my rare moments of off-time, scolded myself and said I should spend that time working. I questioned how I’d be able to make something of myself out of what I’ve done so far. I thought about writer’s block. I thought about the limitations my non-compete clause puts on me moving forward, and what or where I’ll write from now on.

I thought about patience, or lack thereof. Everyone around me seems to be getting offered book deals or writing great things for big places. I have a great job at an amazing company, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not writing, which is what I ultimately want, so I still feel like something is missing.

What would have happened had I patiently waited to hear from the other job before taking the one I have now? Would I have gotten it? Would I have been good? I keep wondering when I’m going to get my chance to break through. I keep wondering if I will break through. I keep wondering if I am patient enough to figure it all out.

“What the fuck do we have to do?” I texted a friend.
“We just have to keep going,” she replied. “Keep up the pursuit and trust that everything we need to succeed is what we already have.”

Am I patient enough for that?

Comparison can be a healthy drive. A faster runner pushes you to speed up. The straight-A student makes you study harder. Everyone wants to be just as good as the next person, to a point. You have to be the best you, not the best them. Someone is always going to be better, but that doesn’t automatically negate your talent or abilities.

Now that I’ve told the internet that, let me try to listen to my own advice for once. I’ve written about how nearly 50 amazing, accomplished women(including most of my personal heroes) were far from huge successes when they were my age, how the ones who are killing it at 24 or 25 or 26 are a rare bunch. I wrote reassuringly about how young we are, how we still have so much time. And yet, I can’t even seem to listen to myself.

Maybe it’s time to start. Maybe it’s time to trust myself and what I have to offer in a vacuum. Trust that I can do it, period. Not that someone else can do it better than me. Maybe it’s time to stop feeling defeated. Maybe it’s time to step away from LinkedIn. Maybe it’s time to remember that I still have a long way to go, but I still have more time.

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