Social Comparison and Life Positions

Posted October 8, 2013 by Marie Arcidiacono in On the Ladder

Life Positions

Confession Time:

I socially compare myself to others.

There….I said it…on the internetinsert panic now!

I’m sure many Career Girls out there do the same thing (Please tell me I am not alone, Career Girls). In North American society, specifically, it’s hard to NOT socially compare ourselves to others; in fact, many people do this for us!

In one of the classes that I teach, Interpersonal Communication, I spend a large amount of time talking to my students about how our Self-Concept (our idea of who we are) and our Self-Esteem (our evaluation of our worth) are related to one another. During my lectures on the importance of being “Okay” with who you are and building up your Self-Esteem I find myself talking about how important it is to not socially compare ourselves to others because that can affect our life position. Yes, every time I say this out loud in class, I silently kick myself and remind myself that I need to do the same thing!

Knowing your life position can dramatically affect the way in which you live your life Career Girls! It might help explain why you are the way you are at work and in your social life. So, let’s break down the four life positions out there.

In the 1960’s psychologist Eric Berne discussed the concept of “life positions” (made up of how a person explains their sense of worth and the worth of others around them) in his book, Games People Play (1964).

  • As I tell my students, the BEST life position (in my opinion) is what Berne coined as, “I’m OK, you’re OK.” Why not have a positive sense of your own self-worth and the worth of others? This is an AWESOME place to be—I wish we could all live in this life position all day, every day.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone we worked with thought as highly of us as we thought about them? I smell productivity! Unfortunately, life is a journey and on that journey we are faced with challenges that can alter our life position.
  • Sometimes we find ourselves in the life position of, “I’m not OK, you’re OK,” where we are not positive about ourselves but positive about others. You might find yourself here when something just doesn’t “click” at work, or in life in general.  Hopefully if you find yourself in this life position you find a great friend, family member, or better yet, fellow Career Girl, to remind you of how awesome you are. We all have something to offer and sometimes we just need a good friend to remind of this and get us back to “I’m OK, you’re OK.”

The last two life positions are not my favorite but they do need to be mentioned.

  • Occasionally, we might find ourselves in the, “I’m OK, you’re not OK,” life position and while this may not seem too bad (because we are being positive about ourselves) many times this comes at the expense of another person’s self-worth and that’s not a very nice place to be in. And honestly, who wants to work with a Career Girl who thinks very highly of herself and very low of you.
  • Lastly, and I hope none of you are finding yourself in this life position, is, “I’m not OK, you’re not OK.” Sadly, this is where we are negative about not just ourselves but those around us as well. Ever have an extreme work FAIL that occurred in a group setting? Cue this life position. So what’s a Career Girl to do when this happens? Find yourself a good friend to encourage you and remind you to stay positive. Things don’t always work out the way we want, but that doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with us!

Wanting to socially compare ourselves to others is part of who we are, just remember, you’re OKAY just the way you are!  Be confident in who you are and let that confidence shine through, both in the workplace and in your personal life.

Remember: You have to be your own biggest fan before someone else will be!

Where are you right now in terms of your life position?

About the Author

Marie Arcidiacono

Marie is a Speech Communication professor who also coaches a debate team. She truly loves what she does and hopes to continue to teach for decades to come. In her "free time" she is an avid runner. Marie enjoys running a variety of distances, including the Half Marathon. She is dedicated to living as healthy a lifestyle as she can while balancing a very busy schedule. Marie loves to network and share ideas so writing for Career Girl Network is perfect for her. You can also read about her adventures on Why Not Girl!.