When it seems like all of our friends are getting married, having kids, purchasing houses or settling into careers before us, how are we supposed to feel? Is it possible to maintain true excitement for them without comparing their circumstances to ours?

In such situations we’re often first told not to measure ourselves against others, but this advice is easier said than done. In most cases, it’s just natural to compare ourselves to those around us. We look to others’ situations and behaviors in order to gauge our own. At one point or another, haven’t we all asked ourselves, Am I as happy as her? As capable? As successful? Yet, if this is how we determine our worth, we’ll never win.

Last week, for example, I was with two friends when the topic of work came up. Both of them talked about how well their careers were going and expressed gratitude for being able to use their talents and abilities in such meaningful and fulfilling jobs. As I listened, I felt genuine delight for them. At the same time, however, I couldn’t help but compare their situations to mine and feel a twinge of fear that I might never experience that same level of passion and success in a career. If we’re honest, I think it’s a feeling we’ve all had at various points in our lives, stemming from our deep desire to be valued and to measure that value and success through a tangible means.

At one point or another, haven’t we all asked ourselves, Am I as happy as her? As capable? As successful?

When thoughts of fear like these start to rise, it helps to take an honest look at what it is we’re beating ourselves up about. Often, we compare the perceived worst things in our own lives to what we idealize as the best or most desirable things in someone else’s – which is never a fair comparison.

While discussing work last week, for example, I was tempted to feel discouraged about where I was career-wise because it wasn’t the same as those whom I was talking to – regardless of the fact that we each work in different industries and each have different end goals according to our different passions and talents.

When our lives don’t seem to measure up with our friends, we must remember that we’re not meant to share the same paths, struggles and successes as they are. There are more than seven billion people in the world – and all of us are unique. We weren’t created to be the same. None of us are here to live out the same achievements at set times, but rather to pour out love through our personal gifts.

Perhaps, if we seek to recognize and appreciate what is unique and lovable in each aspect of our lives, we’ll grow in confidence so that “keeping up” won’t matter as much as being real in our friendships. When we look to our own lives as the standard for which to grow within, we can, as Nora Ephron advocated, “Be the heroine of [our lives], not the victim.”

Have you experienced the fear of “being last?” How did you cope with it?

Image via Emily Ferrara 



  1. Really needed this! I chose a different path and got married young, became a mom, and have been working a full time job the past couple of years. Most of my friends are twenty somethings graduating from college with degrees, going on mission trips, traveling and doing amazing things. I guess I feel like I’m not out there conquering the world, I’m just working, all the time. I’m coming from the other end of this.
    But we can all have joy from accomplishments in our life even if they don’t look the same as someone else’s. I love how you said we are here to pour out love through personal gifts, not make accomplishments at the same time.

    Thank you for this honest and much needed article!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Hannah! I often forget about the other side of this, as you mentioned, but it’s an awesome reminder that no matter how great our life is or may seem, it’s easy to feel like we’re missing out on something else. Thanks for sharing that perspective!

  2. I love this. It’s fresh and very true. I sent it to a young woman that I know is going through some of this! I am 44 and hey, I feel like this many times, too!

  3. Wow! Like the other two readers, this article really resonates with me. I am a recent college graduate working at the bottom in a large law firm. I plan to go onto law school next year, but in the mean time I am pouring coffee and making copies for attorneys hoping to make connections that will benefit me later down the road. It is so hard to not compare myself to my classmates, the ones getting settled into their careers and getting married.

    Thank you for this wonderful article and for the reassurance that I am not alone!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this piece, Becky! Being a recent post-grad myself, I completely understand where you’re coming from and I really appreciate your comment. It’s so tempting to feel like we’re supposed to have accomplished all of our goals now that we’re in the “real world,” isn’t it? Life never quite happens as we plan it though, so sometimes we just need celebrate each season of our life as it comes. As Epicurus wrote, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” Cheers!

  4. I really appreciate this post. I’m 21 currently applying to the college of my dreams. When I had finished high school, I began pursuing a different career path and many of friends were getting jobs,married and having children. At times I felt like I was being left behind. As I came to terms with where I wanted to go in life I realized that God has where He needs me. It’s taken me a little longer than many of my friends to get on stable ground but I now know that we all experience things differently and at different paces. I’m happy for them and their accomplishments. I know that I’ll get to that stage when it’s my time. Your article really hit the nail on the head and I believe it will impact many others. Once again thank you.

    1. Jasmine, I’m so touched that this piece resonated with you! Your words remind me of this quote from Joseph Campbell: “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.” It sounds to me like you’re forging your own path and are exactly where you need to be right now. Wishing you all the best on your journey!

  5. More! I need more! I’m in this exact position right now and I’m trying to learn how to stop comparing myself to others and strive for what it I want to do. It’s hard. Thank you for this article, it was right in time.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Anita! I’m so grateful you took the time to read this piece and that you found it timely. It’s always nice to know we’re not going through something alone, isn’t it?

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