“Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” – Iyanla Vanzant
We know it’s fruitless to compare ourselves to other people. With the onslaught of social media, from Facebook to Pinterest, it’s harder now more than ever to ignore what our peers are doing, wearing, eating, etc. Judging our looks, clothes, careers or lifestyles, as better or worse than someone else’s doesn’t help (and often harms) either party, but it’s not an easy thing to stop.
Here’s a look at what’s really going on when you compare yourself against someone else, and – more importantly – how to put an end to the madness.
You’re Only Bringing Yourself Down
Whether putting yourself down or another person, you’re in a negative state of mind. Judging yourself as worse off than others, damages your sense of self by not believing in what you do – what you are. You view yourself in a negative light and stop seeing your positive qualities. When we do the opposite – put ourself above others – we’re still in that judgmental state. Taking pleasure in someone’s mistakes or misfortune’s doesn’t leave you feeling good. Sure, you may feel good for a moment that you’re further in your career than a colleague, but being judgmental does not equate to happiness. It’s mentally draining to constantly compare oneself and nothing is accomplished in the end.
You Don’t Have The Facts
We make sure to put the best parts of us on social media. We’re all guilty, it’s how it is. We haven’t gone out in weeks, so the one night we finally change out of our sweats, tear ourselves off our couch and grab a drink with a friend we post the hell out of our night. When we scroll through Instagram, we’re not seeing the mundane parts of others’ lives. I touched on this in my post Run Your Own Race, that we don’t know the truth about who we’re comparing ourselves to. We don’t know where they started, where they’re headed or what they went through to get there. It’s apples and oranges.
It Won’t Get You To Your Goals
Comparison takes energy. By spending our time dwelling on who and what we aren’t, we’re spinning our wheels and not getting any closer to what we actually want. Mimicking other’s lives doesn’t get you closer to your ideal life, and lamenting that you don’t have what someone else has takes wastes time and energy that could be dedicated to improving your own life.
“OK,” You’re thinking, “I see that it’s unproductive, but what should I do?”
Question What’s True
We just discussed that you don’t have the facts. The next time you find yourself comparing your life in any way to another’s, ask yourself what you actually know. Maybe a colleague is always talking about her yoga classes and new poses she is trying, and you get down on yourself for not making more time for yoga and not being able to do what she is doing. Ask yourself, do you really know how often she goes? How long she’s been practicing? What other commitments she has in her life to fit this practice around?
Focus on Your Success
Only picking apart what you don’t have, don’t do, and don’t look like, is fruitless and drags down your self-esteem and self-confidence. When you choose to focus on what you have done and are able to do, your confidence will grow and the things you do not have won’t matter as much.
Tune into Your Goals
When a friend gets a promotion, it’s easy to negatively compare yourself and get down that you are in the same position or same company. Until you heard this news you were actually really happy with your job. You’re confident in your work, like your coworkers and see yourself working there for a long time. So what happened? It’s easy to get caught up in someone else’s successes and think if you do not have that same thing, you aren’t enough. By tuning into your goals, you stop distracting yourself from things that may mean a lot to someone else, but actually doesn’t mean much to you.
Personal example, I have many friends who have qualified for the Boston Marathon (a bench mark goal for many runners). It would be easy to be jealous of them, or not think I am a good enough runner since I have not. Then I think of my personal goals with every marathon I’ve done; to enjoy it and cross the finish line smiling. I discovered many years ago that I enjoy training hard and chipping away at my personal best time in half-marathon and shorter distances, but I never want to finish a marathon and be disappointed in myself for being a minute off some arbitrary time goal. My personal goal for the marathon is to run it and enjoy the city I am running in. When I focus on that goal, It’s easy to cheer on my friends with no hard feelings towards them or myself.
Show Compassion and Learn From Others
Showing yourself compassion – i.e. self-compassion – is the best way to build your self-esteem and self-confidence. When you respect yourself and focus on the things you love about your life, your career, your relationships and your body, it’s easier to stop longing for what others have. There are times when someone else has achieved the goal we truly want for ourselves. Instead of lamenting that you don’t have that, or being jealous of them, use them as a tool. Ask if you can grab a coffee and pick their brain about their career path, or if they can show you their favorite exercises, or what training plan they used for that last race.
In the end, the things we struggle with are the things everyone is struggling with. They may not show it, and you may feel successes are handed out to those around you, but I guarantee there are people thinking the same about you. Self-comparison is a losing battle that will never end if you don’t actively put a stop to it.
Focus on your goals, accept yourself at every stage of your journey, and see others as teammates instead of competitors and you’ll find you have everything you need.