I’ve been having an interesting experience of self-reflection the last few months. Some of it I have been doing deliberately, and some of it has been reactionary. I mentioned in my blog post last month that I attended the High Performance Academy with Brendon Buchard and had a valuable experience that re-set my trajectory toward some goals. But while that experience was motivating, I had a parallel experience in that conference. 

I was watching Brendon “perform” on stage and found myself feeling jealous. This guy, who is incredibly successful, is doing something very similar to what I dreamed for myself years ago as an undergraduate student. I imagined myself on stage in front of hundreds of people with important things to say and important messages to share. The first class I ever enrolled in in college, was a public speaking course! Yes, I was that passionate and geeky.

I never relinquished that dream but I’m not anywhere close to accomplishing it. What made me particularly jealous of Brendon wasn’t just that he was doing something I wished to be doing, but that he is my peer! He is only four years older than me! Four years older and wildly more successful!

I’ve had the same reaction to a self-help memoir I read recently: Girl, wash your face by Rachel Hollis. I kept hearing my girlfriends and acquaintances recommend this book and I finally picked it up. As I read Rachel’s story and how she uses her history to give advice, I primarily reacted from a place of evaluation and appreciation for her wisdom. But then, the parallel process kicks in again. Rachel Hollis is exactly my age. She is my age and here is what her on-line bio says about her:

Rachel Hollis is a #1 New York Times best-selling author of Girl, Wash Your Face, a TV personality, top motivational speaker, top podcast host, CCO of The Hollis Company and mother of four. Rachel was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the “Top 30 Entrepreneurs under 30” and she is deeply passionate about empowering women in business.

Rachel’s life isn’t crazy different from mine in terms of experience with self-development, facing doubts and challenges, pursuing a career she is passionate about while also trying to find a work-life balance, navigate relationships and try to raise healthy, good, adjusted children. My dreams aren’t as grandiose as her reality. That is, I don’t want to run a giant company or make millions. But, like Rachel, and like Brendon, I feel deeply passionate that I have a message to share with the world that will help people become the best versions of themselves, have flourishing lives and deep, connected relationships.

Nourishing my Dream

Unlike Rachel and Brendon, I haven’t nourished my dream. I’ve let myself be swept up in the chaos of everyday living for so many years, and my dreams have taken a back seat. I started to feel bad about myself for not being where I thought I should be, especially in comparison to these examples.

Maybe you don’t compare yourself to people who write best-selling books. Maybe you compare yourself to your colleague who just got a promotion, your friend who just ran a marathon, or even your spouse who is growing and succeeding in lots of ways you celebrate, but you sometimes feel “less than” as an overwhelmed mom with little kids. We don’t need to judge ourselves for comparing. It’s a natural, reflexive reaction we all have. But we need to be mindful of how comparisons can defeat us and feed our insecurities.

Let Yourself Be Inspired

Ironically, the best advice and reframe for my reactions came in continuing to read Rachel’s book. She shares in her chapter on The Lie: I should be further along by now, the concept that nothing is wasted. That is, no experience is wasted. In fact, every experience we have all had in our lives are working to shape us into exactly who we are supposed to be in this moment.

I LOVE this concept! And it rings true for me and helps me turns me away from comparison and into self-compassion and a more honest evaluation of my life.

I am not languishing away. In fact, my life is incredibly successful. I love the work I am blessed to do each week with my individual and group clients. I am raising three amazing children with my husband, whom I love. I am physically healthy and take care of my body. I have gone through incredibly hard things and have come out the other side stronger, more resilient, more compassionate, more insightful, and more grateful.

Yes, maybe I haven’t been able to combine all these experiences into a best-selling memoir, or a coherent, motivational talk that is viewed thousands of times on YouTube. But I am in the trenches, sharing my passion every week with my clients. I am in the trenches with my family and doing the best I can.

Comparison is Defeating

I am a nerd with some grandiose dreams. Maybe you have grandiose dreams too, or maybe not. But you have dreams. Comparison is the killer of motivation and only detracts from our ability to realize our dreams. Comparing myself to Brendon or Rachel, I feel defeated.

Maybe you are actually already living your dreams but comparison makes you question yourself. As I talked with several girlfriends about Girl, wash your face, they said the memoir made them feel bad about themselves for not having higher aspirations than the lives they were living. They wondered if they should “dream bigger.” I countered that attitude with a question, “Do you feel content? Do you feel you are living your truth?” If the answer is, “Yes,” then let that be enough. Let Rachel’s memoir (or whoever it may be) inspire you to introspect but do not have her life be your standard. You live your dreams.

I am internalizing my own advice. I do not have to live Rachel’s or Brendon’s life. Instead of comparing myself to them, I am choosing to feel inspired by them. I love their messages and how they have found their own ways to use their voices. It inspires me to use my voice too.

Nothing is Wasted

In my core, I know and trust that I have a unique contribution to offer the world. And so do you. The world needs our voices. I’m not going to tell you how to use your voice or realize your dreams. That’s for you to discover and pursue. But it’s important to anchor ourselves in the realization that where we are right now is exactly where we should be. Nothing we have experienced is wasted! In fact, our lives are rich with experiences that shape us in vital and important ways. Ways that will influence the shape of our dreams and how we want to make an impact. Trust the meaning in that.

Drop the comparisons, and instead reflect on your own growth. Evaluate how you want to use your experiences moving forward. How do you let your experiences influence you for good? How do you want to use them to influence others for good too? Offer yourself compassion for where you are today; especially if you aren’t where you think you “should” be. Hell, give yourself credit for all you are today! For all you have accomplished, struggled through, and overcome!

Let other people’s success inspire you, not defeat you. But equally important, let yourself be inspired by your own story and how you came to be who you are today! Because who you are today is an amazing success story!