Have you ever heard the expression “Keeping up with the Joneses”? The phrase is often used to describe a person who tries to emulate another individual’s standard of living through the attainment of material things: designer wear, a bigger house, a foreign-made car, you name it.
Buying such things aren’t inherently bad. But stretching your dollars beyond your means in the name of trying to keep up appearances is flat-out wrong and is a sign of insecurity.
What does this have to do with living your career dreams and being a self-starter? A lot, actually.
While most people use that expression when talking about a person’s personal life, it can also be used to describe someone’s career life.
I thought about this a little more, and created a list of warning signs, if you will. Could you have fallen into the “keeping up with the Joneses” trap — professionally? It might sound a little far-fetched, but bear with me.
- You might be at risk if you’re always wondering what your co-worker earns on an annual basis. You’ve even come up with reasons as to why someone else is more competitive than you. And you know you’ve fallen prey when you find yourself trying to even out the playing field by imitating some of your colleague’s perceived attributes (i.e the way they speak, dress, or even enter a room). This could also take the form of comparing who you are with your peers, looking at things like race and ethnicity; educational background; physical build and height; cosmetic attributes; speaking style; (you fill in the blank). Playing the comparison game is one of the first signs you’ve lost your way.
- You might be at risk if you find yourself constantly comparing your job results with someone else’s and you have become overly suspicious. You observe that your coworker, who has been on the job fewer years than you have, has just landed a big account. Perhaps an “underling” climbed the ranks suspiciously quicker than you. Or an old college classmate was recently featured in the New York Times for writing the bestseller you felt you could have penned years ago. “I’m just not good enough,” you start to think. “They deserve it because they are smarter than me, anyway,” you might say. “I wonder what she had to do to get that promotion?” you say as you cut your eyes. These kinds of thoughts can drive you crazy. Plus, they are energy-zappers and beneficial to no one.
- You might be at risk if a buddy or colleague recently closed on a new house, and you are wondering how in the world in this flat economy were they able to afford such an investment. You suddenly find yourself in a deep analytical state — conducting Google searches on the average yearly salary of a public transportation employee. At this point, it should be plain to see that you’ve fallen off the deep end, and it’s time to reign it back in. You have become totally obsessed with the success of those around you. So much so that the infatuation is hindering your own progress because you’re spending valuable time thinking about other folks, rather than your next move or how you can up your own game.
Full disclosure: this is an issue that I honestly struggle with in my own life.
But don’t we all fall prey to this at times? Comparisons are good and can be quite healthy. In fact, if you’re going to compare yourself to someone, how about comparing the current you with you a year ago or five years ago? Assessing your progress and areas in your life, career and business that you can improve, is quite healthy. The other type of comparisons that I just described, my friend, are not.
Comparing yourself to your peers is fleeting. For the simple fact that you don’t have all the details of their personal or professional life, and making any conclusion about their career or success in life is assumption at best. What’s more, when you’re not thinking positively about yourself, you risk giving yourself the short end of the stick. You’ll discount your own accomplishments when you view the success of other people through rose-colored glasses.
The takeway here is simple. Make every effort to live by the beat of your own pop song.
Let go of trying to live up to the standards of someone else’s life by embracing your unique career path and who you are — minus a 5- bedroom crib and Fendi pocketbook.
How do you want to live your life differently this year?