In the age of social media highlight reels, we’re constantly surrounded with the pressure to succeed. While it’s a positive thing in that this pressure can encourage you to strive to do your best, it can also be damaging when you’re trying hard and feeling like you’re not getting anywhere. This can be especially difficult when you bring carer comparison syndrome into the mix! Also known as social comparison, the concept of career comparison syndrome is similar to impostor syndrome in that it makes you feel inadequate and you don’t measure up to your peers.
Career comparison syndrome affects more women than men (what a surprise) and often makes us feel like we must work harder and longer to get closer to where we think we ‘should’ be. We spoke to Angelica Malin, Editor-In-Chief of About Time Magazine, author and female entrepreneurship expert and speaker to answer your concerns about overcoming career comparison syndrome….
What’s your career comparison struggle?
#1 “My “work wife” got promoted above me recently and I’m finding it really difficult to take. I know she has more responsibility now but she takes her job very seriously and acts like my boss. I thought we were friends. How can I get her to come back to what we used to be like at work?”
Angelica: This is a very difficult thing to manage, and I’ve been here – on the other side! Years ago, I hired someone who became a very close friend and it became difficult to manage her – as I felt nervous about bossing her around, which is obviously problematic as a leader. So I’ve been in this position and I know neither way is easier. I think the best thing to do is to confront this head on – ask for a personal Zoom call with her and explain how you’re feeling. It’s not an easy situation because, presumably, she does have more responsibility now and technically she may be your manager, but she shouldn’t be patronising. She’s probably feeling quite uncomfortable too, so don’t let the situation stay this way – explain that you miss your previous working relationship and try to find a new way of working together, where you can still be friendly with each other.
#2 “I had to pivot my career due to COVID and now I’m starting again in a new industry (freelance journalism). Although everyone is very welcoming, there’s people younger than me who’ve been doing it for years and I feel so old and like I’m at the bottom of the pile. I don’t know how to stop feeling like this.”
Angelica: It’s in your head! Journalism, in particular, is an industry where expertise and experience is more important than youth! Think of what you bring to the table by being new into the industry – fresh insights, a new perspective, an energy and zest for trying something new. I think you’ll find many experienced freelance journalists are pretty tired of the game, so it’s no bad thing to new into it – enthusiasm will get you far! Use this for your advantage and try to use what you’ve learnt into your previous career that you can bring into your journalism. Journalism is all about stories and there will be so much you’ve learnt through your life that you can bring into your stories.
#3 “My sibling is a really high-flyer in a financial role and is making a lot of money. My job is more creative and while it’s my passion, I don’t make huge amounts. My parents don’t value my job in the same way as my sibling’s and are constantly trying to get me to move into his industry – which I don’t want to do! It makes me feel worthless, but how can I get them to see value in what I do?”
Angelica: This is such a common thing I hear about in my consultancy work – people who make lots of money but don’t feel fulfilled by the work they do, and want something that feels more creative, engaging and purposeful, but people around them don’t ‘get it’. Truth is, not everyone is going to support your career choices, but it’s not their place to care. Your career is yours – to do exactly what you wish with. Stop trying to please other people because that strategy is not going to make you happy, and whilst that’s great for your sibling, it’s not right for you. I would choose creativity and passion a million times over and think how lucky you are to have found something that you love – some people spend their whole careers looking for that feeling. I would honestly give us trying to prove the value of your work to your family – it’s a waste of emotional energy that you could be pouring into your work and building up your career.
#4 “I use social media for work but it is really getting me down. I always see people’s amazing achievements and feel absolutely horrible, like I could never match up. I feel anxious to even open the applications these days, but there’s not much I can do about that, right?”
Angelica: I think you speak to all of us when you say this – as we all have these moments. I think it’s important to remember that Instagram is a highlight reel and people only show a very small slice of their life on there, so please don’t believe in all the success you see like it’s the whole picture. But if you’re feeling really bad, I would do a full detox from the platforms for a few weeks – sometimes we just need perspective by stepping away and remembering our own worth. If you’re in a place of self-doubt or Imposter Syndrome, Instagram can rip that wide open, so I wouldn’t expose yourself unnecessarily to other people’s work or putting yourself in a place of comparison – be mindful of how much time you’re spending scrolling and set a daily time limit. Try swapping social media for self-help books on self-confidence or self-belief, such as Untamed by Glennon Doyle and Super Attractor by Gabby Bernstein, and work on building yourself up, so that these messages of other people’s wins don’t affect you so much.
Angelica is running #SheStartedIt LIVE 2021 – a 2-day virtual festival of female entrepreneurship on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th March 2021 – sign up here! You can also check out her book, ‘She Made It: The Toolkit for Female Founders in the Digital Age’ here.