Rise and fall of money: Why you should stop comparing your salary with others.
You heard a fancy rumor about your co-worker, and now your lungs are on fire. You are fuming. Your head is heated, and right now, even the faintest of interruptions can make you snap. You look up and see your boss pacing in his all-glass cubicle and decide this is it. You are confident he favors your co-worker, and is after you. You make up your mind to storm into his office, demand a hefty raise, and hopefully set things straight. Pause. It’s time to rewind before a serious case of salary envy gets the better of you.
It turns out, comparison is human nature. It is unabashedly normal for the majority of the population. There is a certain reassurance that we seek in being able to quantify success and measure it objectively on a specific metric. To compare financial success, we often rely on their salaries. However, it is important to realize that the process is not only bogus but ultimately redundant.
Someone you perceive as financially successful could, in fact, be living an extravagant lifestyle with no investment, savings or emergency funds for a rainy day. Someone you perceive as considerably less wealthy might, consciously, be living below their means to focus on savings. Our inherent idea of financial comparison is skewed. We see a co-worker with a Ferrari and 4BHK villa and are quick to assume that their monthly earnings are significantly higher than ours.
The perception that we are continually being out-earned by our co-workers is the most prominent element contributing to salary dissatisfaction. The notion of comparison stems from a psychological theory proposed by Leon Festinger. He postulated the social comparison theory, in which he iterated that we compare ourselves to others as a means to evaluate ourselves. This impulse can be traced back to an evolutionary need to make quick judgments to ascertain if something is a threat or not.
Social comparison is of two types- upward social comparison and downward social comparison. What we choose to engage with is intrinsically linked to our idea of self-esteem. When the objective is to improve, upward social comparison takes precedence, and when the objective is to feel good about oneself, downward social comparison comes to the forefront.
Think of salary envy as a black hole. The uncertainty is simultaneously exciting and frightening. To keep your ground here is how to stop comparing your salary to others: –
- Stay Cognizant– Start by paying attention to your circumstances. Is there an evolving pattern that triggers your financial insecurity? It could be something as simple as a co-worker bragging about their accomplishments, a festive bonus, an upcoming promotion, or a fancy new office. Or a social media post flaunting an expensive holiday in Paris. If you notice these signs, remember that it is in your best interest to extricate yourself from the situation and substitute it with positive affirmations such as blogs, articles, editorial reviews and podcasts.
- Compare, but only to stay motivated– If you are concerned about not reframing your perception, imagine changing a gear. Instead of feeling envious, inadequate, resentful, betrayed or hurt, use this opportunity to pick your co-worker’s brain and identify changes that you can incorporate and (or) emulate to grow within the company. Your objective should not be to become at par with their salary but to become the best version of yourself. If you stop comparing your success to others, salary and other financial benefits will undoubtedly flow.
- Show rather than telling– Feeling satisfied with how much you earn can easily be influenced by other areas of life. Work should not be about the end numbers. Therefore, shift focus from what you don’t have to what you have. Make the smart choice. Engage and persevere with the work you love, whole-heartedly and sincerely, with the intention of learning something new every day. Rather than chasing financial success, allow financial success to chase you.
- Communication– Engage in transparent conversations about salary, rather than relying on anonymous hearsay. Without transparency, inaccurate assumptions gain undue prominence. Ask yourself, “Is there a reason I am resorting to this comparison?” Barring any instance of wage-gap, maybe your co-worker just has more credentials and experience to his name.
- You are not your co-worker– By choosing to compare your life and finances with your co-worker, you are letting their priorities become your own. Self-comparison is key- Know your value and the skill-sets you bring to a company. After negotiating a salary that is equivalent compensation for your time and effort, there is no question of comparison.
Financial Comparison is a battle you can never win. You might keep running the race, but you will never reach your destination. We have been taught to think before we act. Go one step further, and think before you compare. Is it worth the trouble? The answer will always be NO.
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