Comparison: The Ultimate Self Defeat
Updated: May 4, 2018
I woke up today thinking about a topic that comes up often in sessions with clients; comparison. While we all tend to compare ourselves (and others) once in a while, it seems to be more of an issue these days with social media at our finger tips. With this in mind, I would like to take a quick look at three important components of comparison and some tips on how to realistically manage it. So, let's get to it!
Can comparison be healthy? Yes, I believe it can! However, it is important to be able to spot the difference between healthy and unhealthy comparisons. Healthy comparisons bring about questioning, inner reflection, motivation and learning tools for growth and achievement. Whereas unhealthy comparisons create anger, self doubt, self disappointment or in extreme cases, self disgust. All of these negative feelings bring us down rather than lift us up. And the goal of our lives is to lift ourselves up, is it not?
Why is comparison so damaging? While we can fool ourselves into thinking that we are not doing any damage by getting jealous or annoyed when obsessing over an Instagram feed (or something of the like), we are actually creating and storing these negative thoughts and emotions deep in ourselves. Not helpful and not healthy. Also, many people base their inner validation on the outside world; this often includes comparison and is a dangerous game. Have you ever found yourself feeling badly because someone else is getting all the laughs at a party (or likes on a post)? And continuing to feel bad about yourself until someone finally gives you that approval? When you do this, you are basing your self worth and self assurance on the external rather than on your inner confidence and self love. This is not only inconsistent, but it is allowing others to control how you feel about yourself, who you feel you are, and the person you want to be. Again, not helpful and not definitely healthy.
So, why do we compare? As most of you know, we don't spend a lot of time in coaching on the "why", so I will keep this brief. Comparison is in our lives from the get go, both environmentally and instinctually (i.e.: choosing mates based on physical appearance). We are compared to our siblings, classmates, teammates and coworkers throughout our lives. Whether or not this is positive or negative isn't what we are going to focus on today, just know that it is in our lives practically from day one. So yea, it's normal.
Now that we have talked a bit about why we compare and what healthy comparison is versus an unhealthy one, we can finally get to my favorite part; solutions. Eeeeee! I love solutions! And while I cannot provide all of the answers (wouldn't that be cool?) I can definitely share a few tips with you to keep the comparisons under check.
First and foremost, don't let your interpretations of someone else's life impact how you feel about yours. What is going on with someone else has little to do with what is going on with you- especially in the case of comparing. Focus on your life. Focus on what you feel you are gifted with, what you want and what changes you are implementing in your life to work towards YOUR goals, not someone else's. If you took the time and energy you spend looking at someone else's life and spent it working on and improving yours, you would be amazed. I honestly cannot stress this point enough: stay focused on yourself and your life. And that's it.
Do not assume. You have no idea of how your Instagram friends feel about their lives, their accomplishments, their failures and their genuine self worth. You are basing a comparison on nothing but assumptions: assumptions about someone else's life and assumptions about what you feel you are lacking during that moment (upon closer examination you may find that you actually totally have your sh@t together in that area!). Do not assume - remember the old saying about assuming? "When you assume, you make an "ass" out of "u" and "me"? It's an oldie, but man, it's a goodie!
Look at exactly what is making you so upset. We most often get upset when we feel that we are lacking or that we have failed in an area. SO, time to make some changes! Take the self doubt you feel when comparing and ask yourself, "Why am I getting so upset about this? What exactly is it that I feel I'm missing? If I had that 'missing thing', would I really be happier?" This one takes some work and some time, but is very rewarding. Talk it out with trusted friend or get a good coach (I know one!). Use this new self awareness to better you life - remember when we talked about healthy comparison? This is exactly HOW you can make it healthy. I know, easier said than done, BUT also not as hard as it seems, I promise.
Look at the bright side. It is easy for any and all of us to focus on what we don't have rather than what we do have. Turn you envious self-talk into one of appreciation by saying what you can be grateful for out loud: your body, mind and brain will hear it. Will this strategy create a dream vacation out of thin air? No, but if you do this enough it will help you feel more satisfied with what you have, filling you with gratitude rather than envy - an important mindset for every person to have in order to feel successful.
When all else fails, turn off the computer, put down the phone or walk away. Seriously. While I encourage you to use the tips listed above, it takes time to master a new skill. So, in the meantime, if the going gets too tough just walk away. I know this sounds extreme (the walking away bit) but just politely excuse yourself and join another conversation; one that doesn't make you feel crappy about yourself. And for god's sake, stop obsessing over social media. Just put the damn phone down.
While comparing is natural, the effects can be very damaging. It is a weighted subject that we could talk about for hours, but for the moment, I hope this helped a bit. As always, write me your thoughts and if you want to share please do; you never know what message may help or inspire another.
With love and light,