I’m happy because when I look in the mirror, I am able to accept who I see. I don’t compare myself to anyone. Not anymore. I don’t compare the way I look, the way I feel, the work that I do. I don’t compare my level of happiness. I don’t compare my achievements.
Because I spent years doing that.
Years, comparing myself to everyone else.
The folks with better clothes, cars, lives, jobs, homes, bodies, hair, shoes. Years, comparing myself unfavourably and hating myself because of it.
It was brutal. And incredibly unhealthy.
Nothing makes you feel more miserable than measuring yourself up to someone else and finding that you’re deeply, deeply lacking — by standards and measures that were never yours to begin with.
I compare myself to my values. My ideals. My dreams. My goals. My ideas of who and what I want to be. I compare myself to those notions. That’s what lets me determine how well I’m doing.
How happy I am.
How happy my family are.
That gives me a better sense of my own direction, than measuring what I do by their resemblance to various Instagram accounts.
When I don’t compare myself to others, I don’t have to deal with the fallout of a sense of failure. A sense of failure that is completely inevitable, because there’s no way to feel good about myself if I measure up against someone who is living a completely different life.
I speak to artists and creatives and founders who want to measure themselves against people at the top of their game, and feel bad because they’re not millionaires before the age of 30. And may never be.
What I ask them is — why compare their achievements, successes and lifestyles to their idols, when the values their idols have are probably so wildly different from their own? Why not set their own metrics?
If you want to be happy about your life, measuring yourself by your personal values — that’s the only way.
Joan Westenberg is an award winning Australian contemporary writer, angel investor, communicator and creative director. She is the founder of branding and PR firm Studio Self. Her approach to messaging, communication and semiotics has built her reputation as a writer, and she has been named as one of the leading startup voices in Australia by SmartCompany.
Her writing has appeared in The SF Chronicle, Wired, The AFR, The Observer, ABC, Junkee, SBS, Crikey and over 40+ publications. Her regular work can be found on Pizza Party, a blog about creativity, culture and technology. Joan is the creator of Transgenderinclusion.com, an open-source workplace inclusion hack.