When I discovered that I was going to need an extra semester to finish college, I immediately pictured all of my friends graduating before me, starting their lives, and traveling the world before I even completed my last finals. Looking back, I realize that everyone has their own unique timelines. But that’s difficult to remember with society’s expectations of when to graduate, get married, or complete other life milestones looming large. When we start comparing our lives to others, it’s easy to feel disappointed in ourselves and the progress we’ve made so far.
If you find yourself constantly comparing your life to others’, try these four methods to change your habits and feel more confident in your own path:
Pay attention to your thoughts
College graduation was a tough time for me. I finished school during the fall semester, but my university didn’t have a ceremony until five months later. When I returned to campus to walk the stage, my former classmates told me all about the new, amazing jobs they landed after graduation. I immediately compared them to my situation at the time: still at my part-time job after finishing an internship that didn’t turn into anything more.
My thought process was constantly negative and self-destructive. Some of these fellow graduates used to get worse grades than me! Why was I behind?
It wasn’t until I turned inward and took control of my thought process that I began to feel happier with where I was in life. I was ultimately able to replace negative comparing thoughts with positive and confident patterns through journaling, meditating, and focusing on my own journey without worrying about where anyone else was at the time.
If you find yourself comparing your life to others in a negative light, I highly recommend journaling your thoughts or taking some time in the day to reflect on what you’re telling yourself. Recognizing your own thought process is the first step towards changing your mindset. Once you acknowledge and discover these negative patterns, start actively focusing on more positive thoughts to replace the self-comparisons instead. With practice, you’ll compare yourself to others less and less, while feeling more confident!
Focus on the journey, not the results
When I was in school, I was hyper-focused on graduating from college and landing an amazing job. However, once I did graduate and found my first full-time job, I was still feeling left behind when I looked at where my friends were. I became very self-conscious about the fact that I haven’t been out of the country on my own, and that I wasn’t ready or anywhere near getting married yet. Was I focusing on graduating and my career too much?
Everyone has a different timeline. Maybe you graduate in four years or maybe you take a little longer. You might find your first full-time job right after college or maybe you’ll land something part-time as you figure out what career path you want to take.
That’s completely okay.
Take a moment each day and express gratitude for the little things. Celebrate small (and big!) victories and accomplishments. Do something you love. Work toward your goals, but enjoy the process.
Focus on self-love
Practicing acts of self-love (such as doing something you enjoy, eating your favorite meal, or treating yourself to a massage) can not only build your confidence levels, but also help shift your mindset toward a positive and gracious point of view.The more confident you become, the more you can look at others around you who are further along and simply think, “Wow, good for them!”
Try a meditation, an exercise you enjoy (I personally love yoga), your favorite hobby, volunteering, or spending time with positive people. Figure out what kinds of activities make you feel the best and make them a priority. You’ll slowly find yourself caring less about others and their own progress because you’re too busy loving your own life!
Take a social media sabbatical
Whether you realize it or not, social media has a massive impact on the way we think. Most people use social media to post their personal highlights, rarely showcasing the low moments.
I encourage you to take time away from social media. If you’re addicted to checking Facebook and Instagram (like me), start dedicating less and less time to the internet during your day. Instead of mindlessly scrolling, use this time to explore and take advantage of life a bit more. Start a new hobby or learn something new through classes or Youtube videos. Another great option is to reach out to your friends and meet in person. This way you can learn the entire story about their journey and accomplishments instead of then social media highlights.
These activities have helped me learn and remember that there is no “correct” timeline. Everyone’s path is different, and we need to learn how to love our life while supporting others along the way.
Originally published on January 17, 2018.