This article is about navigating the realm of comparing yourself against a friend who has gone on to become tremendously successful.
This article makes the assumption that you already know to be happy for your friends success, and to support them on their journey. Do not allow the analysis of your own situation to affect the relationship you have with them. If your relationship changes for the worse, ensure that you play a minimal role in that change. This article is about the feelings that you don’t voice and act on, which are natural and to be expected.
The Mixed Feelings of Competing with a Successful Friend
Competition is how we measure our place in the world. Whether it be by playing a video game, getting good grades, or doing well financially, we rely on those around us to measure ourselves against whilst determining where we stand. As our ambition to be good at something develops, we depend first on winning competitions which exist in our general vicinity, prior to competing against the population at large.
Some of the people you know, or even those you call your friends, will break away from competing with those in their general vicinity. They’ll see increasing success in their chosen crafts, and will begin measuring themselves up against others who stand above the average. If their success continues to grow, they’ll begin competing at the world stage, leaving their old competitors behind.
Having experienced who people were prior to becoming successful can give rise to contending thoughts. Especially if those who become successful are our friends, the mutual similarities which served to fuel our friendship prior, enable us to see a little bit of ourselves in them. They’ve come from where we come from, they’ve spent hours in our presence, and they’ve shared their most personal thoughts with us. Their blistering success gives us a sense of personal contentment in a way, and we don’t find it difficult to be happy for them and their successes.
Other thoughts creep in however. These thoughts will be based on the times you’ve competed with this friend. They will seem to be the protagonist of this story you find yourself a part of. You’ll remember times you went back and forth with them, and will remember times you’ve won. You will feel akin to a plastic training dummy in the development of your friend’s success. As they won and lost competitions against you, they developed the same competitive sense they used to go on to see their blistering success. Those little competitions trained your friend, and made them hungrier than they were prior to competing with you.
Your friend watched you, and they measured themselves up against you. They watched you land a good job, or get into a good school. They watched you buy your first car, and compared their own car to yours. They lived in a small apartment, while you went on to buy your first house. Then, they used all of that as fuel.
The understanding that your friend used your past wins to compare their own successes against, can make their current situation hurt. They’ve overtaken you on this race that we’re all on; a realization which holds with it power. The cycle of comparison does not stop once they’ve gone on to become rich, famous, or both. You will continue comparing what you have against what they’ve attained, and may not be satisfied with your current findings.
Take Ownership of Your Position, Give Credit Where It’s Due, and Don’t Label Anything As Luck
Labeling a friend’s success as a matter of circumstance, luck, and chance, is not an endeavor which is backed by reason. In your hopes to suppress the painful analysis of your own situation with a hope for luck being a factor at play, you’ll propel the chances that you remain stagnant in it. Assuming luck and chance impacted the position someone finds themselves in may make you feel better about your own lack of success, but won’t do well to set you up for success of your own.
On the flip-side, should you take credit for everything that you’ve achieved, and everything you haven’t, you will become sensitive to chasing perfection. You’ll become tuned into the details of what it takes to fix all the little things about a situation you may not be happy with, in an effort to create a better whole. Even if chance may very well be involved in the situations you and your friend are living, not knowing for sure can put you at risk of missing important details.
By taking ownership of your situation, and giving full credit to your friend for achieving the success they have, you’ll assume that nothing in this regard would be driven by luck. You’d be enticed to explore every corner and every crevice in an effort to find success of your own. You’ll be of a mindset that success comes only to those who force it on themselves, and would be on an almost maniacal quest to force it upon yourself.
By getting over your hope of luck and chance being factors in your friend’s success, you’ll be enticed to map out all the things that they’ve done on the way toward their goals. You’ll be encouraged to explore and think about how and when they played their cards right, and when they did not. You’ll have the luxury of studying a case, the analysis and solution of which would benefit you on your journey.
Know the Advantages You Possess
The advantage of your friend being an accessible case to study is not the only one you’ll possess in this domain. The closer of a friend you were with the person who’s experiencing success, the more of your essence would be left over in their every action, thought, and word. The people around us shape who we turn out to be, and you’ve done your part in shaping someone who has gone on to see beneficial results in life.
Even though the combination of their being may differ from yours, you now know that at least some of you, has traveled on to bigger and better things. This should encourage you to consider that you possess what it takes to witness success. Your friend has also done their part to shape who you are and how you think. You may have even competed against them prior, and know what it takes to win against someone of their caliber.
Along with that sense of comfort, you’ll also have the advantage of knowing that your friend is not perfect by any means. You’ve likely seen weaknesses, shortcomings, and bad behavior on their part. You have the advantage of knowing the person behind the perfection of the success they’ve attained. You have the advantage of knowing which aspects of their personality aided them in their journey, and which aspects of their personality have likely done their part to stall them.You can rest assured that there is an imperfect person experiencing success, and in knowing that fact, you’d be less harsh on yourself whilst on your own journey toward it.
Focus on having fewer weaknesses than the people you’ve seen go on to become successful. Make it a priority to focus on competing with the person behind the success, and not the success itself. Understand that the root cause of their success in them, and give them all the credit. Then, go on to compete solely against how that individual acts in the world, and what that individual does, rather than the results of their actions and doings.
They’re Blind to You, and Are Battling Their Own Battles
Though you may feel a lack of control over a friend’s more favorable position in this world, you should understand that it’s unlikely that your friend takes any pleasure from it. Much like how you perceive those you’ve surpassed in social and financial standing, your friend doesn’t consider you a threat to their success. They are likely content with their position, but are not seeking to rub it in.
Just like you are, they’re enticed to compete with those who make them feel like they may lose. They’re encouraged to battle those who they perceive to be a threat to their own perceived success. Your tendency to view them as reminders of your own bleak situation is not reciprocal. More often than not, they would be blind to your situation.
It may hurt to compare your own achievements against the successes of those who were once close. However, you can rest assured that they’re not maliciously attempting to discourage you from chasing whatever you consider success to be. They are doing their job, and your feelings about it are invisible to them. These very same successful friends are battling battles which make them feel exactly how you feel when thinking about them.
They’ve come to understand that competition, depression, and feelings of unworthiness do not simply disappear from our experience once we start seeing reward for our work. They’re making new friends with whom they will compete, and are making new enemies with whom they will battle.
Learn from their lack of focus on the past, and from the bigger battles which they’re a part of now. Remember that the marathon of life cannot be effectively summarized until you’ve ran the whole thing. There is nobody who perpetually remains in first place, and there will always be those who come from behind to take the lead. Focus on running your marathon. Pace yourself, learn from those who are in the lead, and most importantly, do not get discouraged for being in second place. The position you find yourself in now has tremendous advantages if you perceive it in a healthy way. These lessons will come in handy for when you find yourself in the lead.