Success In Your 20s: Comparing Your Life To Others
“This guy made $5 million dollars in 2 years and they’re only 21 years old! Check out how he did it.”
At some point, everyone has read a headline like the one above. I see these headlines often and they’re usually written by some marketer trying to sell you an online course. There is nothing wrong with doing well at a young age and speaking on it, but it seems as if people often like to use clickbait titles to make others feel as though they aren’t measuring up to the image of success.
Using buzzwords like “only” followed by someones age could be triggering to those who feel as though everyone else is surpassing them in life. Even worse are those articles saying:
“This person runs a $20 Million dollar company at 28. What are you doing with your life?”
The problem with clickbait titles is they appear to shame people into feeling like they’re not accomplishing great things themselves. It plays into peoples emotions and creates a false reality that someone their age is doing better than they are — which isn’t the case.
Comparing ourselves to others has always been a thing. You’ll see someone with a better car, a bigger house, nicer body and think “Wow, I wish I could have that.” These are harmless comparisons. Comparisons become harmful when you start putting so much pressure on yourself that you no longer show gratitude for the good things already in front of you.
Let’s talk about Instagram. It’s Monday morning and you’re heading into work for a job you hate. You’re already annoyed because you have another long week ahead of you. After a few hours, you finally get a 30-minute lunch break and check Instagram. You scroll your feed and like your friend's posts. You then see a post of someone your age relaxing under some palm trees in the Maldives. Their caption reads “Just living the life. It gets no better than this” with palm tree emojis. It gets to you. You suddenly think about how you’re making minimum wage while that person is jet setting to a new place every week. It gets you down because you compare the life you have to theirs and it’s hard to shake while you finish your shift. You find yourself occasionally daydreaming while you work. You know seeing their posts gets you down, yet you keep checking their posts because, in reality, you’re living vicariously through them. You wish you were there. You wish it was you. You may even get jealous and even resent that person even though you don’t know them.
This kind of thing leads to anxiety and depression. It’s easy to become affected by what you see on social media, but it’s just as easy to use social media and understand that success is relative. The life we see on Instagram is often far from reality. Everyone posts their best moments while hiding their worst moments. No one wants to put the struggles, the hardships, and the hurdles online. They can’t afford to look bad for their followers because they may get unfollowed. Putting anything contradictory to the perfect life will hurt their image so they have to keep it up.
Because that’s exactly all it is — an image.
Most people don’t realize those who appear successful also compare themselves to others. They may make six figures and see someone who makes 5x their annual income. They may spend so much time running a company they never get time to travel and wish they could. Maybe they wished they had someone who can help them relax and take their mind off of work. Comparison is a trade-off on many levels. Like Annie Lennox sings: “Everybody is looking for something.” That is why self-awareness is so important.
Expectations vs Reality
As kids, we believed most adults had their life together and we couldn’t wait to become one. As adults, we realized that our parents were winging it and didn’t really know anything. We expected to get our dream job straight out of school, make good money, get married and buy a house all in our 20s. This was our version of success. We expected to achieve the American dream in 10 short years and we feel as though we have failed because things haven’t gone according to plan. We expected everything to be simple. The reason why many 20-year-olds are so hard on themselves when it comes to being successful is theoretically, most feel as though they’re going to die at 29. We move as if we’re trying to cross things off of our bucket list instead of accomplishing life goals. Our fault is trying to reach the pinnacle of our success now rather than trying to reach new goals throughout our lifetime. No, things aren’t what they seemed they would be, but the advantage we have in our youth is time. We should want success as it comes instead of seeking overnight success.
Understanding Our Privilege
Many inventions we have now didn’t exist years ago. Through the power of technology, it has become easier for future generations to accomplish more at a younger age. These days you don’t have to be in your 20s to have a career. We’ve reached a point where it isn’t surprising to see someone young doing great things before they reach adulthood.
People like 14-year-old Marsai Martin, who is the youngest executive producer in Hollywood. 7-year-old Ryan of RyansToysReview is YouTube’s highest-earning star, raking in $22m annually. What a time to be alive, right? If you look at how the power of the internet has created a bigger playing field for everyone, you wouldn’t worry about what the next person is doing. Plus, are you really going to compare your adult life to some kids? I hope not.
Success is a sphere and not a circle. There are so many dimensions to it that looking at it from one viewpoint isn’t doing it justice. When I see headlines like “At 21, Melissa is already an owner of a 7 figure company” I do think about what I was doing at 21, but I also think about what went into her building that 7 figure company. How old was she when she started her journey? How fast did she scale? Who did she know? What is her story? You see, there is more to success than what you see. Being around people like this I can assure you that there was a good amount of time and effort that got her to where she is now.
“If you continuously compete with others you become bitter, but if you continuously compete with yourself, you become better.”
How To Quit Bad Comparison Habits
It’s human nature to compare, even small things. When you have self-awareness you aren’t affected by everything you see on social media. You may be at ground zero this year and by next year possibly the biggest thing in the world. Life comes at you fast and a lot can happen in a short time, but you can’t get there if you are watching others build their house instead of building your own. If you drive a car and you’re busy looking at the cars beside you, you’ll eventually crash. Why? Because you’re more focused on where others are going instead of focusing on reaching your destination.
If you’re going to compare your life to others, use it as motivation to reach the level you want to be on. Self-awareness helps you to realize that everyone has their own destination. Let’s not live for our 20’s, but let’s live for our entire lifetimes. As long as we’re alive we all have the opportunity to make something great of ourselves. If we take a look around we will see people 40+ and older influenced by the innovation and creativity of the youth. If they are inspired enough to try new things at their age, we must again recognize the advantage of time and opportunity we have and use it.
So what happens after 29? We keep going. We keep reaching our goals and creating new ones as time goes on. It isn’t the end of the book, but the start of a new chapter in our lives. I hear life gets better after 30 and I’d like to see for myself.