Doing Freelance? Don’t Comparison Shop Your Happiness Away
There comes a moment in your working life when you may have to seriously consider striking out on your own. For both happiness and income stability.
The other day I was climbing Sand Dune Park, a giant sand hill close to my apartment in L.A., when a man who was huffing and puffing asked me how I made climbing the dunes look so easy.
I told him I had been climbing off and on for eight years, and that I also run regularly on the beach.
But I remember when I first started; I could get through it only three times before calling it quits. Now I climb it 12 times in one hour.
A couple of days later, I went to my gym to take a class. I regard myself as fairly athletic, but as I was watching the girl next to me, she was totally kicking my butt. It made me feel kind of lame.
It brought me back to my school days when I was chubby and teased a lot for being terrible at sports.
As a society, we generally tend to be negative, especially about ourselves.
I was focusing only on not being as strong as the girl. Never mind the fact that I was given a huge compliment two days earlier as I kicked dust on the sand dunes.
This is the problem we are often faced with in life: comparisons.
“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.” — Marcus Aurelius
I am the queen of comparing myself with others, as much as I try not to, and it has robbed me of my own happiness and of the ability to enjoy my own success.
The biggest comparison pit I have wallowed in for the last seven years is financial. This is especially true after being laid off in 2008 and struggling as a freelancer.
At first, I tried to keep up with the Joneses (aka all of my friends — many of whom are aerospace engineers). We were going out to dinner on a whim, taking beach volleyball classes, attending concerts, and going on trips.
I kept up the facade that everything was awesome as a freelancer, even though it wasn’t.
I was quickly blowing through everything I had saved before my layoff. But I didn’t want to be “that friend.” You know, the one who never had money and had to say “no.” The one who never got to travel or buy nice clothes or go to a concert. I “deserved” to “fit in” because I was comparing myself with my friends and defining success on their terms. It was all very superficial.
After a couple of years living like this, my immediate savings were gone and I was living paycheck to paycheck. I was getting close to having to dip into retirement savings to pay my rent and bills.
So I became that friend who said “no,” spending evenings in yoga pants and watching Netflix.
There were many times when I felt sorry for myself — that I had taken too many steps back in life. I especially felt bad seeing my friends’ travel pictures on Facebook. I began my own personal finance website in 2012 without much thought. It was private at first, but I eventually started telling people I knew.
Over the next three years, I watched it grow. I kept at it, even though I was still struggling financially from time to time when freelance work was slow.
It wasn’t until the last two years as a freelancer that it really hit me what success means.
It’s not defined by the number in your bank account, nor the clothes on your back.
My happiness and success had to be defined in my own unique way. To me, that was being able to have the perseverance and grit to keep my business going. To find new ways to make money. Also, to think outside the box and be creative and innovative.
I’ve built my company and brand from the ground up with no one to help me. For that I am proud.
So if you’re struggling to find success in your own life because, perhaps, times are tough and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I urge you to re-evaluate what success and happiness look like. You get to define it! To compare it with someone else’s version is a waste of time!