As a bit of ninja training for my mind and writing skills, I like to answer questions on Quora. I’ve found directing my writing at a single, visualizable person to be much easier than a vaguely defined audience. I’ve included one below that has been a recurring theme of life (and many others, I suspect).
How do I stop basing my self-worth on how good I am at something?
You’re asking the wrong question.
What I think you want to ask: “How do I stop comparing myself to other people?”
Instead of “how good I am” in relation to others, look at “how good I am” in relation to yourself. Getting validation from your own progress (be that in school, work or some skill) is not a bad thing. What makes us suffer is comparison with other people.
Buddhism (and many other religions, philosophies) have been struggling with this problem for…forever. So don’t think there is an easy answer.
Still, you’ve made the first step. You recognize the problem. The next step is to rewire your brain from getting validation from others to getting validation from yourself.
I’m not so good at it yet, but here are a few things that have helped me:
- Realize nobody is happy. Social media has made this worse, but all the smiling faces on the Internet make us falsely believe people are happy. Most people aren’t: they hate their jobs, they don’t think they make enough money, they are worried about being fat, they are lonely…and on and on and on.
- Why look to others for validation if they aren’t happy anyway? That’s purposely throwing yourself into the fire. Instead, find a few, select role models than you can truly look up to and model yourself after them.
- Think long and hard about what YOU want. I’ve done this for 10 years. And I do it still. Every. Damn. Day.
- If you don’t know what you want, you will default to wanting what others “have,” suspicious that what they have is the answer to happiness. It’s not. 99% of people are sheep, following each other around because they believe somebody else will tell them the answer to happiness. THEY WON’T. Only hard work will tell you where you want to go.
- When you’re old and dying, what can you look back on and smile at? What things can you do today so that, when you go to bed at night, you can sigh a sigh of satisfaction and say, “There is no place I’d rather be. There’s nothing else I’d rather have done. Let’s wake up and do it all again.” Don’t know the answer? Read. Talk to people. Ask questions. When I was lost, I read 200+ books in a single year.
- Keep an internal scorecard. This comes straight from bazillionaire investor Warren Buffett. Measure progress by how much you improve on a day to day basis, not on how skilled you are in relation to others. That’s a never-ending circle.
- You’ve already passed the first step: awareness. Now, like a meditator bringing his distracted mind back to a breath, every time you find yourself comparing yourself others, consciously bring your mind back to your internal self. Say to yourself, “That’s great, Sally makes 100k per year. But am I better today than I was yesterday?”
- Once you make a habit of personal progress, it becomes an addiction. You want to improve every day. Satisfaction starts to come from inside, not outside.
I got all excited and wrote rapid-fire from my brain… Hope it helps. Just remember everyone has this problem, and you are way ahead of 99% of people by realizing that validation from comparison to others is not sustainable (there’s always somebody better than you at X).
Link to original post.
Let me know what you think in the comments.