I’ve decided to open up a new section or category on Beyond the Rhetoric that focuses on personal development. In some ways, posts like this might fit in under freelance writing, money, or stuff, but if I intend on continuing with similar topics, I feel it deserves its own category.

Previously, I discussed the risks and rewards of being unconventional and why goals are the bane of my existence. In talking about comparing yourself to others, both of these issues play a rather critical role. For instance, the reason why you may see yourself as unconventional is that you are doing things differently than your peers. Among my high school grad class, I am the only one — to my knowledge — who is running his own business (successfully) as his primary source of income. I won’t name names, but another fellow tried opening his own establishment in Richmond, only to find himself in a fair bit of debt, surrounded by virtually no customers. I am thankful that I have been able to expand my business, instead of closing down shop.

When comparing myself to others in my grad class — most of whom I re-discovered on Facebook — I’d say that I’ve done reasonably well. That said, I’m very confident that some of my peers are making more money than me these days. Maybe not dot com mogul money, but more nonetheless. This type of comparison can have two main possible results:

A) It can motivate me to work harder and work smarter, so that when the 10 year reunion rolls around, I can be the richest and most successful mofo in the room.

B) I can fall into a depressive stupor, thinking that I will never catch up to them and any attempts to prove otherwise would be a waste of time, energy, and effort.

Realistically, I probably fall somewhere in between these extremes. You can also see how both of these possible outcomes relate to goal-setting.

No matter where you find yourself in life, there will always be someone in your peer group who is worse off than you, just as there will always be someone who is better off than you. It is quite the quandary comparing yourself to either of these people, but I feel it is both natural and necessary to do both. This helps to alleviate the issue that was brought up in my post about goals being the bane of my existence.

Comparing yourself to someone who is slightly better off than you can motivate you. It’s critical to compare yourself to someone slightly above you, rather than someone way above you. Learn to crawl before you try doing the 100 meter dash. Comparing yourself to someone who is worse off than you can provide a boost to your self-confidence. It’s important to feel good about what you have accomplished, rewarding yourself accordingly. These little pick-me-ups can help keep you content, satisfied, and possibly even happy with your lot in life.

Life is what you make of it. I know that sounds cliché, but I fully believe in that. You will inevitably compare yourself to others. The key is to channel those emotions positively and realistically to improve your self-esteem and your life as a whole.