What To Do When You Feel Like A Loser

The comment on Facebook

It was a quiet Saturday afternoon. Mr. FAF was playing video games in his study room while I was scrolling down the feeds on Facebook.

Suddenly, I saw a congratulatory comment on the Facebook page of someone I know.

It read something like this: “Congratulations on finishing your PhD and getting an offer from Google!”

My attention level soared through the roof. I ignored all the other updates and photos about traveling, engagements, weddings, and babies to focus on that particular comment.

Related: What To Do When You Find Out Your Ex Has A New Girlfriend On Facebook

Comparison

It was a girl who went to the same high school as me. She’s a few years younger than me and is finishing up a PhD degree in a field similar to mine at a prestigious university (Ivy League). Let’s call her Sarah.

Curious, I looked up Sarah’s LinkedIn profile. Lo and behold, she’s graduating in a couple of months.

How did she get a job at Google without a degree in Computer Science or Engineering? I asked myself that question and saw the answer right on her LinkedIn profile. She went through a two-month intensive coding program.

Throughout her degree, she also focused heavily on data management and analysis just like what my doctoral program trained me. The only difference is that she’s much better at it.

I went from being impressed to being envious of her success. Dropping out of the PhD program has been the biggest failure of my life. Her Facebook status just reminded me of how much I felt like a loser throughout my four years of being a doctoral student.

According to Cambridge Dictionary, a loser is “a person who is defeated, or someone who regularly fails.” And that’s exactly what I used to consider myself: always failing.

Don’t get me wrong. I was happy for her. She deserves all the success for her hard work and determination. But deep down, I also felt sorry for myself.

She’s getting a PhD in a similar field at a prestigious university. I’m a PhD dropout. She’s working at the most coveted software company on the planet – Google. I work at a nonprofit most people haven’t even heard of.

She went though a seven-week coding program. I don’t even know the first thing about coding and have no interest in learning. Her husband also has a PhD in a computer-related field from the same prestigious university.

To sum up, I felt like the biggest loser on earth. When I compared myself to her, I felt like I was nobody. Desperate for comfort, I ran to Mr. FAF, interrupting his video game and told him about the discovery.

He told me we are different people, and that I shouldn’t think about it too much. He’s right. I haven’t even met the girl. I’m only connected to her on Facebook. She once asked me for advice on the PhD applications. In other words, we are not even friends in real life.

Yet, there I was, beating myself up about the fact that I’m not as good as her. Oh, comparison! It’s my worst enemy.

How to cope

It took me two days to recover from feeling like such a failure. And below are the steps that I took to restore normalcy.

1. Try not to stalk others on Facebook and other social media platforms

Out of curiosity, I went through her About page, photos, and anything related to her on Facebook and thought how beautiful her life was compared to mine.

That action was toxic and unnecessary. My life on Facebook is not the same as what it is in real life. There are problems and challenges I have never mentioned and will never discuss on a social media platform.

I feel more comfortable expressing myself on my blog because it’s anonymous and personal. I don’t want to embarrass Mr. FAF by discussing all of our marital problems on Facebook for the world to see.

A 2014 study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology finds that Facebook can lead to depression with social comparison as the mediating factor.

We tend to compare ourselves to others on social media, in this case Facebook, by focusing on the positive aspects of their lives while downgrading ours. The same thing can be said about Instagram and other social media.

The best thing for me to do is to get off of Facebook and not stay obsessed with all the good things happening in her life. Competition on Facebook can get ugly as Lily at The Frugal Gene points out in “Facebook Bragging Can Be Annoying – But Could It Ruin Your Finances Too?“.

2. Focus on the positive things in our lives

I realized that when I felt envious of Sarah, I forced myself into a tunnel vision and couldn’t get out. In other words, I reduced my life and hers to one specific area: getting a PhD and a high-paying job at a prestigious company.

In that regard, I definitely haven’t achieved as much as she does. However, we are two different people at different stages in our lives.

Sometimes we tend to take for granted all the great things we already have and lament the things that we lack. It makes us perpetually miserable because no one is perfect.

By equating my value with a degree and a job title, I forgot about and fail to appreciate many wonderful things in my life: a loving family in Vietnam, a new family we’re building in America, good friends, good food, a growing personal finance blog, no debt, maxed out retirement contributions, a good husband, and a stable income.

After reminding myself of those beautiful gifts in my life, I started to feel better and gradually stopped being fixated on what I don’t have.

Related: How Our Lives Have Changed With A 125% Increase In Income

3. Set and pursue our own goals

Forgetting about other people’s success and focusing on our happiness is only part of the equation. The two steps above have to do mainly with our attitude and our thought process.

What really makes a difference, however, is action. Unless we take action to change and improve ourselves, things will stay the same.

The next time I go on Facebook, I might come across another update of a more successful person. I can shut down Facebook and remind myself of all the wonderful things in my life. Or I can also set a plan to move myself forward instead of falling behind or staying stagnant.

Being happy is good. But being complacent can be bad. I thought about going back to a PhD or learning how to code, neither of which I want to or can do. If I don’t want to do what it takes to get to where she is, then I shouldn’t complain.

Instead, I contemplated about my future plans and what I want to do:

— Get promoted or take on a higher-paying and more challenging job.

— Continue to build financial security (i.e. making more money, paying off the mortgage, contributing to retirement, saving for a second house).

— Grow and monetize my blog.

— Take good care of myself and my family.

As long as I make progress on my trajectory, I should be happy with what I have and can accomplish. No matter what I do or who I become, there will always someone better out there somewhere in the world.

Continuing to invest in ourselves to grow our value and explore our potential, I believe, is the key to success.

Conclusion

I still think about Sarah and what a great job she has done with her career. But instead of feeling envious of her success, I’ve learned to focus my energy on my own goals.

Sarah is an intelligent woman who has done exceptionally well in her career. She is and will be an inspiration for me to try harder. And I’m glad to know her, even only on Facebook.

Related:

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20 thoughts on “What To Do When You Feel Like A Loser”

  • Yeah take my advice! Get off!!!

    I hate how they’re ran as a company. They steal content for their own profits. Oh and they can’t even let you have anon Facebook page for a blog. I hate they make you download a separate Messenger (huge data drain, size & privacy issues) to just send a message.

    It’s better for majority of people out there to uninstall and disable their Facebook just for the psychological benefit.

      • Thank you, dear! It’s a great reminder. There’s nothing good about comparing ourselves to others unless we make positive changes to our lives 😉

        And yes, Facebook is getting creepy!

  • Comparison is the thief of joy.

    To be honest this is sometimes a problem for me for blogs, too. I see others having great success, and I’m just like…woooo broke 300 page views today! hahah 🙂

    At the end you’re right, you need to set your own goals and focus on the positives.

    • I’m sooo glad you got the blogger burnout. I’m no longer obsessed with traffic anymore, but I also compare myself to other PF bloggers sometimes hehe.

  • “Out of curiosity, I went through her About page, photos, and anything related to her on Facebook and thought how beautiful her life was compared to mine.”

    this is why I hate Facebook so much. People filter out all the crap in their life and only post their finest moments. It is so easy to fall into the trap of feeling less worthy or not good enough but it’s all an illusion.

  • One more thing I might point out. Peoples lives on Facebook are not necessarily their actual life. It’s a place where the persons crafts the message they want you to see. Only by walking a mile in someone else’s shoes can you really understand what their life is like.

  • Hmmm, is she really a winner for spending a lot of money and time to get her PhD program to go work at a company whose main goal is to get you to click on text link ads?

    I would think that spending a lot of time and money to get a doctor degree would be more useful to help those were in most need of help. But that’s just me!

    Sam

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Sam!

      She got a full ride, so the school technically paid her to do a PhD. She invested years of her life for sure, which seems to be yielding a great return given how well Google pays her as a data scientist. I don’t know much about other aspects of her life, but I definitely admire her for getting a PhD from a top school and a job offer from a top tech company, especially given that she’s a girl born and raised in a developing country just like me.

  • Life is like a race. Sometimes you’ll be ‘behind”, and sometimes you’ll be “ahead”.

    Also, sometimes it takes time to figure out what we really want to do. At least it beats climbing up the ladder, only to realise you were climbing up the wrong one.

    Even with “dream jobs” they may change. I know far too many that have gone on to be doctors etc. Only to realise expectations and reality did not align. Now they’re aimlessly stuck and moving on the tracks.
    Like finding that $100 bill only to have it blow away as soon as its in your grasp, only to keep chasing, and chasing it.

    What do you want? Then go after that, and that only. 🙂

    • Thank you for the reminder, Will! I think you’re right. Reality and expectations don’t always match up. I don’t know what she’s going through or if she’s loving her job. Sometimes titles and socioeconomic status can be so misleading. 🙂

  • I think you are doing wonderfully well.

    I have felt what you felt many times- friends on Facebook with million dollar houses, fast cars, Hermes bags. I avoid Facebook like the plague. It perpetuates the game of comparison and accumulation, and grasping. You know, the polar opposite of peace.

    Over time, I’ve learned to say “Good for her, not for me”.

  • I know how you feel. I am going back to school and possibly starting a PhD while my friends who are on average 3-5 years younger are starting higher-paying jobs. It’s frustrating but then I focus on my own personal pursuits and how I am the only one who managed to move across the Atlantic to attend school whereas most of them haven’t really stepped out of their own country or continent.

  • Social media really is a collection of other people’s highlight reels which can get toxic fast. Something I like to remember is that other people’s success don’t take away from your own and in fact are great reminders that all you want is achievable 🙂 have a lovely week!

  • I would say you are definitely no loser. As Drake would say, you started from the bottom and now you are here…. Running a successful blog and catching FIRE. Facebook has been on fire for the wrong reasons lately in the news, so I wonder if this is an opportunity to invest. 🤔

  • I will echo previous comments. Get off Facebook.
    In fact, I think the BEST thing you can do for yourself is delete your Facebook account and delete your Facebook app.
    Finally, it will force you to spend time on YOU not on others. What is best use of your time? Reading up on others? Horrible. The best use of your time is doing things for YOU, what you need to do, what your goals are, what your needs are. SPEND TIME ON YOU AND YOUR FUTURE!
    Sorry id I am shouting, but (here come the judgment…) you need to CHANGE what you are doing!
    Please!
    Be good to YOU!
    PS, As you may guess, I do not have a Facebook account.

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