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Ask HN: How do I stop comparing myself to others?
109 points by mwhuang2 509 days ago | hide | past | web | 72 comments | favorite
I always have this problem of feeling inadequate. I'm a junior CS student at a decent but not great school. Some of my friends go to Stanford or UT Austin and have already interned with multiple top companies, while I haven't accomplished anything of significance. I also read this site daily and I can't even comprehend most of the posts. I didn't figure out what I wanted to do with my life until recently, so now I'm 22 and stuck behind my younger peers.

I'm really impatient to achieve big things. It's like I need to in order to justify my existence. How do I transition to a healthier state of mind and stop feeling worthless?

The multiplicity of casual friendships online has led to an interesting new phenomenon: Because people preferentially broadcast their successes, we tend to get the feeling that everybody else is more successful than ourselves. I don't think you can avoid comparing yourself to others; what you can do is try to keep in mind that life is a mix of good and bad, and even if all you manage to do is avoid the worst of the bad, you're doing pretty well.

Take me for example. I started university when I was 13, won the Putnam competition when I was 18, went on to a doctorate in computing from Oxford University, and single-handedly bootstrapped a successful startup. I think most people here could tell you that much about me; but I doubt many could tell you that I'm 34, that I'm socially awkward and stutter when I'm nervous, that I'm diabetic and wrestle with this life-threatening condition every day, that I'm 20 lbs overweight and due to my sedentary lifestyle have the cardiopulmonary fitness of a typical 50 year old, or that I've been dumped by every woman I've ever dated.

When you inevitably compare yourself to others, remember that there's probably a lot you're not hearing about them.

Amazing post, thanks for the openness.

As I get older (I'm still 33), I realize more and more that almost nobody got their stuff together. Most people even in their 40 or 50 are still trying to figure out what to do with their lifes. They change careers, move to a different state, start writing books, start some business different from what they have done their entire life.

When I was young, I always heard that 'life is hard'. I live in a third world country, grew from a poor family and never had much money. But it wasn't until I was married working in a good company that I realized what that means.

I realized that life being hard is not about not having money or a family... these are struggles we all have. Life being hard is all about these choices you have to keep making that are not confortable at all, you can never rest, life is always changing your plans. Even when you think you have it all figured out, this will last only a few years and you will have to start again.

It's all part of life. We all have struggles and the sooner we realize that it's all about the journey and not about the ends, the easier it gets to go on.

I'm 34 and I'm also realizing this slowly :) Choices are a major source of my stress. It's the fear that am I making the right choice or will I regret it in the future? I only have one limited life :(

> When you inevitably compare yourself to others, remember that there's probably a lot you're not hearing about them.

This is exactly why it's useless to compare yourself to others --> incomplete data (or even worse, pre-selected data).

There have been a lot of posts which seem to advise against comparisons.

I'd argue that a comparison isn't bad for you per se, it's the data you are comparing your life/achievements to that can lead to problems because of a lack of transparency.

Why not keep comparing, but compare your current self to yourself at timepoint t-1, t-2...

Also, try to set schedules for when you compare and which facets of your life you are comparing (eg. health, education, 'job success' etc on a bimonthly basis).

Last word of warning --> most people tend to make comparisons when they are feeling 'down'. Don't let this kind of expectation bias screw with you - try to leave comparisons until you are in a moderate or positive mood.

Wow and you're that guy that won the Putnam


I appreciate your openness Colin, thanks.

I admit that I thought twice about posting that. But I figured an example would make what I was saying much clearer, and it wouldn't be right to use anyone else as an example if I wasn't willing to use myself as an example.

> When you inevitably compare yourself to others, remember that there's probably a lot you're not hearing about them.

That's definitely true but I find little consolation in it because for me it's not only about being really successful. It's also about being perceived as really successful by other people, so it's not just about "winning" the "competition" of who has the "best" life, it's about winning the competition of who other people think has the best life, which is a competition in which it doesn't matter whether there's a lot that you're not hearing about the winners, because the majority of people (the judges) will only take the stuff you do hear into account.

I hope that makes sense, couldn't really think of a good way to phrase it.

I really appreciate you opening up like that. The world is a more beautiful place when people do.

This man has been on Facebook and has seen right through it.

I've become accustomed to online anonymity, it's pleasant to hear some vulnerability for once. Thanks for sharing.

Well, you should start by stopping reading Hacker News, because it's clearly not good for you in your current mental state. I promise, you won't miss anything important.

Next, take some of your time and go volunteer somewhere - go tutor a child or teach someone to read or feed the homeless or whatever else you like, just go help someone out. You're now accomplishing something way more important than interning with some 'top company' somewhere. Congratulations, your existence is now justified.

Finally, now that you're doing something worthwhile for humanity and you're not tormenting yourself by wallowing in everyone's self-promotional bloviating, you can happily focus on learning new things, gradually improving your own skills, and figuring out how to make a big dent in the universe on your own personal schedule, which is different from everybody else's.

Hey, I spent my entire twenties fucking up left and right - whatever you end up doing, I guarantee you're way ahead of me.

Consider using this Adblock/uBlock filter:

I've been using it for a week or two now. It blocks links to all comments (besides Ask HN, Show HN, etc - which is why I'm here). I've drastically cut down my HN time but still keep up to date on tech news. I also read the articles in full a lot more than I used to.

(It also tidies up the homepage and makes it look a lot cleaner, IMO: http://i.imgur.com/RzHKD2d.png)

Contrarywise, I usually just hit the comments without reading the article. It's super fast for bootstrapping yourself into an issue. Does rely on the people on HN not being full of crap, though.

+100. And an extra +1 for teaching me a new word (bloviate). =)

I wrote a bit more in response in another comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10523788

Going through a similar struggle as OP and this really helped me out. Thanks.

Welcome to life.

Don't worry though. Everything will be OK.

(The things I'm about to say is/are true for me. So is most of what everyone else here is saying. While it's good that you are asking your peers for help, the answers you will get won't make "sense" until you discover them for yourself. (Like the A-HA moment when you finally grok a mathematics proof or a famous algorithm). This will require effort from you.)

The facts of the matter are simply this:

- Your life is unique the same way that everyone else's is. - Your journey is not the same as anybody else's. - You are a whole person. - You have all the tools you need. - :)

The answers you seek are of a spiritual nature and you need some kind of spiritual process to discover them. I can recommend Buddhism, Toaism or even the Yogic disciplines/technologies. What they all have in common is an insistence that one needs to meditate, daily...

(Meditation, loosely, is learning how to accept and acknowledge thoughts that are uncomfortable.)

Good luck!

I agree that there is a spiritual growth component here. As another response said, go find someplace to volunteer and help others. Do this doing something you love, even if you think you are not that good at it. For example help code.org, black girls code, FIRST robotics etc.

In terms of HN and how smart people are here: Remember there are a lot of people that participate in HN and the experts and sometimes so called experts come out and respond to the posts in their knowledge domain. So some of these people do know a lot more about a topic than most of us.

I read HN almost daily and don't understand most of the topics and responses. It doesn't bother me at all. If it bothers you you might want to stop for awhile.

I'm 62 and was miserable working at a bank/financial institution. I quit and started working at a university (web services) and volunteering in STEM education of K12 students 9 years ago today. I felt stupid at the bank until I left and realized the people that were above me were clueless. Clueless people promote clueless people. So my biggest advance in my journey started when I was 53 years old.

Now I'm in a much better place. Take care of yourself. Exercise, moderate your vices (if you have them) and give back. Be grateful for what you have and journal that every day until you think in terms of gratitude as your new mental model. And yes meditate and give prayers of thanks for what you have.

You have taken a big step asking for help.

So, you're basically normal. Comparing yourself is typical, especially in your early 20's.

Impatience is a great quality, you just need to combine it with Not Giving A Fuck. Comparing yourself slows you down if you go beyond "I should know that too!"

Someone else will always be better than you; embrace it. If you're the smartest person in the room, find a new room. You'll learn more there.

(Not that your friends are "better than you." They fall in a different category called "great family support.")

I like this! "If you're the best jazz player in the band, find a new band"

There are many good answers in this Quora thread: https://www.quora.com/How-can-you-overcome-your-envy-of-peop...

As many comments on this page suggest, try to stop worrying about what's outside of your control. You can't control if someone else is a better programmer or started coding at a younger age. But you can control what you study, how hard you study, how hard you practice outside of school, etc. If you work hard, 5 years from now there will be a bunch of 27-year-olds that you work with who feel inadequate working next to you.

If something's outside of your control, you _literally_ can't do anything about it. So why make life harder for yourself by worrying? That's like worrying about an asteroid hitting Earth -- you'll upset yourself, but it won't do you any good.

Yes, this echoes something Worf once said, "Thinking about what you can't control only wastes energy and creates its own enemy."

The race is long and it is only with yourself.

Realistically, what is the percentage of people in the whole world that can do what you can do? Here is the answer: Under 25-million or you can do what you do better than 0.0000000025% of the planet.


I bet that didn't help but look at it this may, you may or may not become a "New York Times, number-one, best selling author" or a "Diva at an Italian opera house" but you can master your craft and use it to better people's lives or even your own life for that matter. Perhaps that should be the goal and revel in those accomplishments?

something something suncreen

Find a goal or even a yardstick that's more meaningful to you than to anyone else. Ideally, also find a path to it that's uniquely appealing to you.

It's way harder to think about what you want than to hop on to society's defaults (schools, work prestige, wealth, looks, ..). http://www.paulgraham.com/love.html touches on this ("if you admire two kinds of work equally, [choose the less prestigious]").

When no one else is trying to accomplish the same thing in the same way, only absolute measurements matter: how close did you get? How much did you enjoy the ride?

Comparing to others is not the problem.

Focusing on differences is.

The solution is to focus on similarities instead of differences.

By focusing on differences, you will always find something to let you feel inferior, let you stop tackling new things, maybe even saying things to others you do not really mean because you feel down at that moment. By focusing on similarities, you will boost yourself. You will see that others are not that different from you.

When you changed your regular comparison strategy for some time, you might even notice that focusing on differences, in the context of a retrospective is not that bad. It gives you the chance to grow.

"The solution is to focus on similarities instead of differences."

Disagree. OP: Focus on what makes you unique. And that probably isn't the obvious stuff. You're in school, surrounded by folks whose talent is that they're good in school. That's not what makes most successful folks successful in life, I can assure you. Or happy.

Maybe you're just natively a generalist and surrounded by folks happy to be specialists. That's great: the world spins because of folks who see the big picture and understand how to connect lessons learned from disparate fields.

How about this: Read Andrew Hargadon's book, "How Breakthroughs Happen"... and then maybe Be That Guy, the one who builds teams and connects networks of experts and puts the whole thing together and makes shit HAPPEN.

School's a terrible place for learning this about yourself, since it's a reproductive mechanism for academics. But today t's pretty instrumental in gaining the necessary credentials and pedigrees. Do your best, but take this as an opportunity to learn about yourself and your broader capabilities.


There are always multiple ways to tackle a problem. Both ways help. However I do not find it useful to start out with your approach, because it is more complicated, takes more action and is hard to communicate, especially in the context of a single post.

Here is the simple idea that I always use - "Don't take life too seriously - we are not special". When we start to take our life too seriously we start to think about some sort of objective or some kind of success we want to get to. We start comparing ourselves to others to figure out the so called objective and then we find that we are far behind from everyone else.

Now the way I avoid being too serious about life is by thinking about the Universe and how amazing and large it is. At the scale of the Universe we simply don't matter.

Wow, wow, wow! You hit a gold mine of advice with that question... I agree with all these comments. I hope you can see the trend in most of these comments. It's just too easy to say, "Don't compare yourself to others, it's a waste of time!"- though true... It's easier said than done. I found for me, the moments when I was happiest, balanced & free from all those negative thoughts about myself and where I stood compared to others- is when I focused on me. The best version of yourself has nothing to do with anyone else. I saw a therapist for 2 and a half years. The first year was twice a week. After putting in that much time with figuring out why I felt the way I did about myself, it changed everything. Your emotional intelligence, your soul is not always an easy thing to navigate, but that work is incredibly rewarding. As others have said, you're the only one that can do it. What I'm trying to say most is, begin. May you find a balance in your humanity - be it physical, mentally, & spiritually. And may you find that the compelling question is not how you compare to others or what they may think of you, but rather how you think of yourself. Are you who YOU want to be? If not, begin. You got this ;-) Big things will happen- it's safe to say that they take time.

Oh! and enjoy the ride!! Fuck- Nobody really knows for sure if we get another go at it.


I'm serious. In dancing your bodily similarities and dissimilarities to your partner are in your face all the time, the fitting of them is (in a way) all there is to dancing. You both have to be aware of it and not fight it, you have to work with it. You have to learn to let the differences flow (so it is not enough to learn the choreography, you need to be able to enjoy the dance).

Words do not make justice to the experience.

What's that quote again, 'while in his 30s Julius Caesar once cried because he felt he hadn't done a tenth of what Alexander the Great had done at the same age'? Don't worry about people being faster than you. Build simple sites/apps (read Pat Flynn's blog rather than HN), see which one sticks, and improve it over time. Don't hope for a massive success, build something simple but useful to a limited audience. That's what I did when I was 22 and that site is about to turn into a business + the skills I learnt got me a freelancing gig which eventually got me hired. It's not an easy path, but it's meaningful. Easy paths such as marrying your high school sweetheart and getting hired at a top company in your 20s do look great, but they aren't making these people any more acquainted with the lengthy process of building great things.

"It's a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years." — Tom Lehrer

Comparing yourself to your peers is the key for personal growth. It's often not easy, in particular in days of Facebook and other social networks but here why I think it's crucial for us:

At the end of the day we are imitating our peers--everyday. When we start as babies we imitate our mother, our siblings and everybody we see. Later in school and university we see what friends and other peers do. Sometimes we think good idea I might try it.

And sometimes we are surprised that in our eyes to us inferior peers try and accomplish stuff which is more challenging, advanced and just more exciting than our life. THIS is the key for personal growth: this feeling that somebody who was inferior all the past overtook us, frustrates us and will lead us into bigger journeys. Especially men who tend to be more competitive cannot stand this feeling and gear up.

I started to raise money because of some 10 year younger guys I met who raised 500k seed with ease. And I found those guys are inferior to me, so I was forced to get on par.

But when I was an office drone deep in corporations I imitated my peers there: worked as little as possible but still climbing the career ladder via office politics, complaining all day how bad the company is, worked just for the weekends (full of partying and girls) and the only goal was planning the next vacation. This was a hollow life where I lacked strong peers and I was slowly degenerating like them for years. I lost time.

This is the good thing about Facebook. Because we have 1,000 of FB friends the probability that we see everyday some big achievement of someone is quite high (and so frustrating) and leads to a very restrictive posting behavior on our side because it tells us: only post if you achieved something special and this initially negative energy might be good: it pushes into new and more challenging activities.

I know not everybody will like my answer but again peers who push us out of our comfort zone help our personal development. So we should see it as something positive.

Realize that what you can achieve in your life depends on the DNA you started with, the life circumstances that got you to where you are today, your world view, perspective and perception, and a healthy dose of luck.

Then realize that there are zero other people in the world who have that same set of attributes. Therefore, no matter who you interact with, see on YouTube, or read about, the difference between the two of you is not going to be explained by something you can control.


I started learning programming at 27, I'm 30 now, have a full time job and never been happier, so you are definitely not late.

The turning point for me was when I read this article: http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-harsh-truths-that-will-make-yo...

It basically says you have to make things and you won't feel yourself worthless.

Start learning and doing hard, that's all!

A recent article in the Economist explains why comparing to others makes us unhappy. In short, we keep comparing ourselves to people who are better off: http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21677223...

That said, I think there are concrete things you could do to improve your current situation. First, it sounds like you now know what to do. That's excellent! At 22, you are not far behind at all.

Early in grad school, things weren't going well and I felt like I was falling behind my peers. I ended up finding a lot of comfort knowing there was a CS professor in my department who had trained as a doctor but then decided his passion was in CS. He basically had to start over in school. To know that one could get a later start and still achieve success was incredibly reassuring.

That said, I think you might also benefit from having a mentor. I have found it useful to have someone experienced and successful from which to learn and model myself after. They have given me the confidence to go and tackle larger problems and helped me move forward when things are looking pretty bleak.

HN used to be much more technical and practical. Now you have much more posts about history, biology, astronomy, many thing that are very very far from being (practical) CS. I can only assume that HN readers want to feel even more sophisticated with far fetched intellectual topics. I think HN will make most persons feel miserable just like social networks do, on facebook others have more friends on HN others are smarter than you.

You should stop reading HN. I've been contemplating this for myself for some time. I have to look around more, but so far I see reddits programming subreddit is more condensed and superior if you just want to keep track on programming news.

For your current situation I can tell you that everything is fine. I've got into programming as an autodidact later than you with zero experience and my school career was average at best. Just take your time and go really deep into a single programming language, exercise with meaningless projects, use stack overflow or friendly forums to discuss problems. Just don't compare to others, there are always smarter people than you. But if you train the practical parts really hard it becomes meaningless because the results are the same.

Also if you want to learn something about humbleness, read Herman Hesse's Siddartha, just don't dive into esoterics afterwards.

Good Luck.

[edit] Nice article about depression and social media: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/04/08/new-stud...

I am not being cynical, but I wouldn't recommend using HN to replace a therapist.

This is good advice.

The therapist at my university was really useful to several people I know, plus myself.

Do things you are interested in, and that you can commit yourself to spending time on consistently. Dropping things you've started without making the conscious decision to do so will foster a sense of underachievement. Accept that Rome wasn't built in a day and start small. Build yourself up gradually. Use your small successes to build momentum. Accept that you cannot change the past, instead try to guide the future. Invest the time in doing a personal development plan. Even if you don't use it, the simple act of doing it will help to give you some direction and make you appreciate what it is you really want. You can then set about making steps in that direction. Be wary of sacrifices you choose to make, particularly concerning people. Choosing to learn language X instead of language Y is easy to solve when you change your mind, but convincing the person you love to take you back after you chose your career over them is likely to be much much harder.

1. The people you look up to also look up to someone. There's always someone better, you will never be satisfied if you use other people as a benchmark. Set your own goals, live up to your own standards.

2. What one person can do, another can do too. It might take years of practice or study, but all you need to accomplish things is a little luck and a lot of perseverance. Being really good at something is a lifelong pursuit. Better find something to do where you'll enjoy the journey, because there is no meaningful destination.

3. Action causes reaction. As long as you're doing something to move ahead opportunities will happen, even if you can't yet see how, in turn accelerating you and causing more opportunities. Achievement snowballs. The hardest million is the first.

4. It's easier to adjust your perception of things than the way things really are. If you are not happy, becoming so is less a factor of changing your life than changing your attitude. Meditation helps.

5. It's OK to say none of that is relevant. Everyone has their own path. Mine is not yours. My advice only truly pertains to my own younger self.

OP here are some references that may help you. The first is to assess your stengths and find a career that supports your stengths. Then work on making your stengths stonger. Think about a good baseball batter. Improving their batting average 20% makes them a great batter.

I have used SF in my own life,, with the teams I have managed and with some life coaching customers. If you want to know better how to use it send me an email eric [at] ericfplamer [dot] com

These two ted videos are also useful for 1) thinking differntly about happiness and 2) thinking differently about genius.



I strongly recommend that you read some Epicurus, Epictetus and Seneca ;) Start with Senecas "On the Happy Life"

Phenomenal, and highfive to you, my friend. This is I think some of the best advice in here. I also draw a lot from Marcus Aurelius. The main body of literature of his (Meditations) was actually his personal journal. It is highly likely that he never intended on having those works published. There is really something profound in the stoic way of life that transcends time and stabs at the heart of humanity. What great advice!

(For context: I started writing this as a reply to gyardley's comment[1], but I thought it might be more appropriate as a direct response to the OP instead.)

I just wanted to add that you don't necessarily have to make a big dent in the universe to feel fulfilled. I think that making a meaningful positive impact on a small number of people you care about (or even one person) can be just as rewarding—if not more so—than making a difference in the lives of thousands. I certainly admire and encourage your ambition to achieve big things, but "smallish dents" are great too.

To address another point, I think it's great that you know what you want to do with your life. I definitely don't believe that 22 is "too late", however. I'm 28, and it feels like I've made that decision dozens of times in the last 15 years or so. Whether you're still in college or decades past it, "what you want to do with your life" is not a static thing that you just discover one day. It's something that you can spend your life constantly rediscovering, and I hope that you do so. Right now, for you it's computer science, but who knows where your passions and proclivities might lead you in a few years. It might be somewhere else in tech, or it might not, and in both cases, that's okay. In fact, it might be somewhere you never imagined yourself going, and—at the risk of overusing this word—that's great too.

Finally, if you do decide to "quit" HN or just take a break from it (both good options), read some of these[2] before you go (especially the ones down below the rather tangential discussion about travel costs).

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10523845

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9393213

I don't think you can stop comparing yourself to others, and you shouldn't try to. It's a good thing to do.

What you should try to do is realize you are you, and you have the opportunity every second to be creative and additive rather than competitive or detrimental to the world. That is amazingly valuable :)

> "It's a good thing to do."

Can you explain why?

I guess what I really mean is that I think it is good to critically and emotionally analyze others' lives ... try to understand what's led them to where they are and how they feel.

I've had to work hard at this, and maybe it takes a fundamental belief in the value of everyone, but whenever I find something positive in others, it doesn't make me feel upset or stressed... I'm just inspired and want to learn.

Life can't be defined by arriving at a place and feeling that you've "made it" or "gotten ahead." If you actually do "make it" by accident, the next thing that happens is that you die - in spirit, if not in body. A lot of people who suddenly get rich or famous meltdown, because they still don't know what to do. And a lot of people who go all-in on their careers burn out. There are opportunities that you can miss and regret, but you aren't an abstract person or a movie action hero - you won't be "on" all the time.

Instead, focus on the everyday cycle. How do you want to construct your life so that you are living well each day, each week? Take whatever things you're already good at - and can do without much effort if you just start, and concentrate - and put more of your chips behind those. It's in the regular practice that you become really "great", and there is no book or curriculum that can tell you how to practice at that level of motivation. It might lead you away from core CS, but that's okay. There are a lot of kinds of gigs out there, and you might overlook a possibility and come back to it later, so you aren't necessarily harming your future at this stage. Stay in good health and keep your stress down and you will get there eventually.

There are all sorts of little things that I'm sure other people figured out long before I did, and then things that I learned that they will never learn in their lives. If you value learning a lot, you end up not valuing wealth and status as much, because it doesn't have much to teach you. And then it doesn't matter that you didn't intern at a top company, because suddenly your friends are all a bunch of weirdos too.

I only recently realized that technical writing was a thing I might want to do, and I'm 30. I also only recently realized how to stop overtraining with weights and make more substantial progress, and this was after some 15 years of off-and-on practice with lifting. (It's simple: two-day split once a week instead of once every 2-4 days.)

It's like I need to in order to justify my existence.

According to the Christian bible, god invented humans because he was lonely. Based on that, I figure I am entertainment for a cosmic intelligence beyond my comprehension. I am probably more entertaining when I am fucking up, so I figure I cannot get this wrong.

You don't need to justify your existence.

Next, I suggest you read some bios of people who had success later in life. Twenty-two is really not that old.

Also, try either unplugging from listening to the bragfests of all your so-called friends or scratch the surface and look deeper. A lot of people who rub their success in the faces of people around them are incredibly unhappy you couldn't pay me enough to trade lives with them (assuming a genie could grant such a wish).

I would liken the whole process of 'success' as nothing more than the acquisition of accolades. If you peek beyond the veil of most institutions (financial or otherwise), there is the fabled trophy you must acquire at the end. This trophy can be anything, and the institutions are always careful to suppose "It's not about the trophy", but secretly it is.

Money is a trophy. Marriage is a trophy. Dissolve the trophy and focus on what you need instead of what you want. Most of what a person needs is fairly rudimentary and easy to attain. Be careful with validation (a basic need) because it's usually sought in the most egregious places

The short answer is to let go.

It can take years of training and searching to let go, the best guide I have found is this book : http://zenhabits.net/lg/

Compare yourself with your own self, but several years younger. Have you achieved something notable? Did you just now noticed that you did something wrong before? Then you're all right - you're growing.

Find a way to get some confidence. Learn something new. I'm reading / listening to "Quantum memory power" by Dominic O'Brien right now. There are some fun tricks in there that make memorizing things trivial. He points out this builds confidence, though I just think it's fun. After that... Take it day by day, and take it easy on yourself

Unhappiness and feeling inadequate is correlated with not doing what your gut tells you to do and living somebody's else life.

My life began at 40, amusingly.

6 billion people in the world.

> I didn't figure out what I wanted to do with my life until recently

Great, just do whatever that is. You're not behind, 22 is basically 0 years old in your career. Just start doing the thing you want to do until you become really good at it.

Stop minimizing things you have accomplished. You think everyone started off at the top. Look at each project or task you completed as a stepping stone to the next and to become better..

Simply put.. Don't try to copy the Jones's.

Not comparing yourself is one thing, but you should also question your values and goals. If you think interning at top companies is a good thing, you could try to also intern at a top company. Just one example.

I am 32 and facing the same issue at work and life in general. Comparing to others comes to me naturally, and it has been a reason of lot of anxiety to me. I am yet to figure out a permanent solution.

No one has it all together. Ever. Full stop. So quit worrying. Do -> measure -> adjust -> repeat. Most people don't peak professionally until they're in their 40's.

For most people, the answer is simple: stop being in your 20s.

Meditate and tell yourself that you're pretty okay.

By my estimation about 6,000,000,000 people would be very happy to trade places with you. Compared to them you are doing just fine.

"I'm really impatient to achieve big things. It's like I need to in order to justify my existence. "

First, you are a human being, whose worth is not tied to how much money you have, how fancy CV you have or how high grades you have. You are valuable and precious just as you are. You might be a bit lost, and that's ok, most of us are at one time or another.

I'm writing this as a person who felt maybe just as bad as you did at your age.

I don't want to hurt your feelings but "Achieving big things" is not a life goal. It's a posthumous statement in an obituary. And a lot of people who are described as achieving big things actually felt they failed miserably.

Take, for instance Ghandi - he had pretty radical goals in terms of India and he felt he failed most of them. His tactic of non-violence and a fantastically successful publicity campaign of personality cult got him in to the history books for good but as for the goals he drove - a perpetually rural, united india - did not really happen (and I think it was a good thing too). And most of the hype around him was due to other people choosing to idolize him - not him, himself, doing a shitload of extravagant extraordinary work.

Your friends, by the way? Their fancy internships? You are just trapped in an association loop when idolizing them. You attach a positive value to the brands of the corporations, and by your friends interning there this association leaks to them. Then you recognize you do not have this direct associative link, and feel bad about it. Although - it's all just happening in your mind. You are jealous of their life story. But please recognize - the giants of world history have had mostly pretty shitty and ordinary lives, and are remembered mostly due to a stroke of luck, or, due to a fact that they tenaciously drove towards their own personal goal that for some historical fluke happened to be in synchronicity with the current world events.

Now, how fantastic are your friends actually? Maybe some of them got better grades - so what.

It does not mean they are better than you. It's just that they score higher on a specific arbitrary metric due to their life circumstances and history at this point in time. Arbitrary - because let's face it, large systems are not fair, nor are they designed to be. The system of education, the system of economy, the system of government - they are all fabrications with emergent properties no one can really control exactly.

We are all corks ebbing in the ocean of life. Sometimes the current takes us forward, sometimes not. The thing is, you cannot choose who you are, but, you can daily choose what you do.

"How do I transition to a healthier state of mind and stop feeling worthless?"

I think you might need therapist or meditation for that.

As a self help book I can heartily recommend "The science of happiness" by Rick Hanson. (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DVW8VN2?keywords=science...)

Personally, for me, professionally - I needed to find something that I found was intrinsically motivating. Luckily I did, in computational physics and computer graphics and this gave me intrinsic motivation to play around with things and find stuff out. I'm not hugely successful but I have a good career and feed my family. I would not have had half a good career unless I had found something compelling. I do hope you find something that interests you!

The difference with external and internal motivators is that while both compel you to action, fulfilling external motivators usually suck you energy while internal ones give it to you.

I found Richard Feynmans* self autobiographical writings assuring. While they are an attempt at self-aggrandization at painting an image of "the cleverest person in the room" they also discuss deeply personal matters of death, loss, de-motivation and ways to cope with it. When Feynman felt down, he tried to find something he could find interest in playing with - no matter how silly or trivial. I've followed this same protocol throughout my life and found it a good course when things look bleak. Play!

*"What Do You Care What Other People Think?" and "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" by Richard Feynman.

I'm going to offer up what might be a bit different advice. Comparing yourself to others isn't necessarily a bad thing. Doing this can tell you who can help you improve, or maybe you identify role models, appreciate a good mentor, etc... Or it can show you who you might be able to help. Sometimes we all need some help.

The real battle is in how you define your sense of worth. Take smarts, for example. In your life, you are going to encounter people smarter than you are, as well as not as smart, or maybe you can't really tell. What does that really mean?

Think about being smart enough. One artifact of that thought could be what you accomplish boils down to how willing you are to do the work to actually accomplish it. Being willing is very high value! Suddenly, how smart you are isn't a defining attribute. Your intent and resolve are.

Another artifact of that might be the realization that smart people "rub off" If you want to improve, being around people better than you is an excellent way to do that, and feeling inadequate gets in the way of all that too. Think back on that intent and resolve and maybe you realize everyone who wants to do stuff with their life has those things and is sharing them with others who appreciate it. Going further, many people respond favorably to someone they see doing the work to get after those big things, whatever they are. And there should be no shame in any of that at all.

Extend that a bit more, and suddenly those comparisons have value! Hard working people rub off. Social people rub off. Etc...

What you need to do is absorb unabashedly. As you encounter others who are compelling in some way, watch and learn! Make a few friends. Those people know it's OK to be who they are, as should you. Those people are doing the work, making the friends, showing good intent. As should you.

Do the work and trust in yourself. Get help when you need it. Give help when others need it. Treat yourself with the same respect you would others you admire or believe you can learn from.

In fact, cultivate a sense of respect. Mutual respect. When you demonstrate this, people most often return it. And if it's your intent to do that, work hard, get something you believe in done, people will most often return that too, and in that process you become one of those people you are comparing yourself to.

Give with honest, good intent, and 'ye shall receive.

You aren't stuck behind anybody. You are where you are, and it's up to you to move forward and do what you want with your life. What you are doing here is looking at younger peers who made different choices and you are wishing you had made those same choices. Or you are buying the bullshit they are selling.

A great many people never, ever really figure out what they want to do with their life. Often, they are too busy living it, having fun, building, doing, playing to think about it. Others are driven, focused, intent.

So you've arrived at some life goal! Good for you. Now quit your regrets and start getting after it, whatever it is. There will always be others who seem better positioned, or whatever. It's not about any of that. There are people who are worse off, or more poorly positioned too.

Do you want to be here? Do you care about other people, the world, and the things you find in it? Great! That's all anyone requires as justification to be here. No joke. Be sure and share that often. People like other people who care. People value others who care too.

Share that thing you want to do with others, and ask them what it is they are wanting to do as well. Maybe you can help, or maybe it's good to just listen and appreciate they are doing something they care about. Maybe you have a common goal.

Maybe you can realize that's all any of us are doing, you included.

Like I said, give and 'ye shall receive.

One great way to feel better about yourself is to help others, and the doing of that does wonders for your own sense of worth. Do it. Clear that mess out of your head and free yourself to get after it, whatever it is. And all those people you helped are very highly likely to appreciate it and return the favor too.

The real question, I would guess, is where you get your sense of self-worth? It is worthwhile to do a bit of introspection to understand what really matters to you as opposed to what all the people around you tell you should matter to you. A while back, I found that a lot of my motivations to achieve certain things where driven by pride and a need to show off to my peer group and not due to any real intrinsic desire for those things so I started asking myself why I was working so hard for things that I do not really care so much about. The question I kept asking my self was "What is your life worth?" If at any moment I was told my life was going to be over, what are the things I would wish I had accomplished. The list I came up with (and it is a pretty short list) are the things I use to prioritize my actions. I am always checking back to that list to be sure I am actually trying to accomplish those things.

One caveat about setting any goals that involve the approval of or comparison to other people (e.g. I want to be as wealthy/successful/beautiful/smart/talented as person X or I want to be famous and celebrated) is that there is always someone better, more successful, prettier, smarter or whatever-er you desire and so chasing these dreams are a mirage. I remember reading an article in Forbes (or Fortune, I forget which) which described what life is like for various stages of wealth. The descriptions of life for people who are worth seven figures then eight were pretty much what you would think but I will always remember the first words used to describe people who have a net worth in the low hundred millions: "Prepare to have your ego crushed". I remember thinking that's ridiculous, if I ever have a hundred million dollars, there is no way that I would feel insecure about my status and then I realized that I know a lot of fairly wealthy people (in the seven to eight figure range) who are very, very insecure about their wealth and in fact feel like failures simply because they are comparing themselves to others. The only way to win this game is not to play.

Also, do realize that we are all very influenced by peer pressure. Why do you think there are red states and blue states? You think somehow every one in a particular geography just decided to have a certain set of opinions? Nope, my guess is 80% of our opinions are driven by the opinions of the other people around us. So the practical way to make this work for you is to find people who have the values you want and hang out with them. Also, limit your interactions with people who move you in the other direction. If's tough but for a decision as important as this, you should try to actively shape your life rather than have it just happen to you.

Lastly, you should always separate your happiness from your achievement of your goals. You should be happy and fulfilled regardless of the outcome of your strivings. Your goals, however wonderful, are just one aspect of your life and not the whole point.

How can you possibly be impatient to achieve big things when you don't understand what you want to do and what HN posts are about?

You need to understand that you won't achieve big things. You're not Zuckerberg and you're not Steve Jobs. You're not going to be a billionaire, or even a millionaire. It's pretty evident from the things that you wrote above.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, you can accomplish great things once you gained the maturity to realize that you need to work hard and study hard and learn. Figure out what you enjoy, and work hard at it. You might not be the next Steve Jobs (no one is), but you can make a very good living in tech if you work hard and keep learning throughout your career.

A study shows people of age 18-25 are the most stressed out, as it a period of "entering adulthood". This is the time you have to make many important decisions in life and it is absolutely normal to get confused and remember you are not alone in facing such a situation . Millions of people of the age 18-25 face the same problem. But what you must do is, sit and think what you really want in life and listen to your inner voice. Always remember no two fingers are the same, so never compare yourself with anybody else. Each one is made for a purpose. Identify yours and work towards it.You may not realize your own strength untill you set a goal and work towards it. So all the best my dear friend. Be cheerful. You are not alone!

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