When it comes to things I’m an expert in, unfortunately, comparing myself is top on the list.
I compare myself to others like it’s my job. I’ve mostly stopped the body comparisons. But my comparison-making has simply morphed.
Instead of someone else’s body, I focus on other parameters like profession, success, home life and happiness. Instead of weight and size, I notice myself focusing on and fretting about other numbers like blog comments and pageviews.
Because, honestly, this is one habit that’s hard to break. And I suspect I’m not the only one who’s regularly comparing herself.
Mara of the beautifully written and always wise blog Medicinal Marzipan also talked about comparison-making in this fantastic post. Like she says, it doesn’t matter what you use as the measuring stick, whether it’s someone else’s body, their appearance, athletic ability, job, money or their life in general.
What does matter is the root of the problem. And she said something very powerful about what underlies comparison-making, what’s at the core of this behavior:
I have a history of comparing myself to others, my fear and social anxiety rooted deeply in my inability to really love and believe in myself. I always thought that others had more or were more successful than me because they were luckier/smarter/prettier/skinnier/more industrious than I was. I felt like I lived in the shadows of those around me, but the truth was – I put myself in the corner with my constant worrying and lack of self worth.
When you think about it, it makes sense that an inability to believe in yourself is behind comparison-making. When you’re rarely satisfied with yourself, your self-worth is shaky, and you see others’ lives as almost perfect – or definitely better than your own.
You constantly search outside yourself, and as a result, you knock yourself down.
For many of us, comparing ourselves just changes stripes from time to time. One day, we want someone else’s abs, biceps or hips. Another day, we want their smarts or style. A few days later, we want their family life or financial situation.
Until we can truly believe in ourselves, the comparisons will swirl and sabotage.
It’s interesting that now that I accept, appreciate and believe in my body, the physical comparisons have mostly quieted.
I know that self-confidence and self-love are big concepts, and they sound overwhelming and very abstract. But like improving one’s body image, they take time and steps.
In her post, Mara encourages readers to remember our own uniqueness and learn to appreciate it. I think that’s a great step in quieting comparisons and an important reminder. I LOVE what she says. In fact, feel free to read it aloud right now.
I am an amazing, unique, beautiful, and intelligent person. I have a special perspective to bring to the table, because I am a result of my lived experiences, and thus, no other person on earth can offer exactly what I can. I am lovable, and am as successful as I allow myself to be. I am worth listening to.
Leo Babauta also talks about comparison-making in this post on his popular blog Zen Habits. He lists some concrete, helpful strategies we can try. (I was going to excerpt a few of my favorite suggestions but I think they’re all valuable!)
- Awareness. Most often we do these social comparisons without realizing we’re doing it. It’s a natural act, I suppose, and as a result it’s something that is done without consciousness. So the solution is to become conscious — bring these thoughts to the forefront of your consciousness by being on the lookout for them. If you focus on these thoughts for a few days, it gets much easier with practice, and soon it’ll be hard not to notice.
- Stop yourself. Once you realize you’re doing these comparisons, give yourself a pause. Don’t berate yourself or feel bad — just acknowledge the thought, and gently change focus.
- Count your blessings. A better focus is on what you do have, on what you are already blessed with. Count what you have, not what you don’t. Think about how lucky you are to have what you have, to have the people in your life who care about you, to be alive at all.
- Focus on your strengths. Instead of looking at your weaknesses, ask yourself what your strengths are. Celebrate them! Be proud of them. Don’t brag, but feel good about them and work on using them to your best advantage.
- Be OK with imperfection. No one is perfect — intellectually, we all know that, but emotionally we seem to feel bad when we don’t reach perfection. You aren’t perfect and you never will be. I certainly am not, and I’ve learned to be OK with that. Sure, keep trying to improve, but don’t think you’ll ever be the “perfect person”. If you look at it in a different way, that imperfection is what makes you who you are, you already are perfect.
- Don’t knock others down. Sometimes we try to criticize others just to make ourselves look or feel better. Taking someone else down for your benefit is destructive. It forms an enemy when you could be forming a friend. In the end, that hurts you as well. Instead, try to support others in their success — that will lead to more success on your part.
- Focus on the journey. Don’t focus on how you rank in comparison to others — life is not a competition. It’s a journey. We are all on a journey, to find something, to become something, to learn, to create. That journey has nothing to do with how well other people are doing, or what they have. It has everything to do with what we want to do, and where we want to go. That’s all you need to worry about.
- Learn to love enough. If you always want what others have, you will never have enough. You will always want more. That’s an endless cycle, and it will never lead to happiness. No matter how many clothes you buy, no matter how many houses you own (seven, in the case of one famous candidate), no matter how many fancy cars you acquire … you’ll never have enough. Instead, learn to realize that what you have is already enough. If you have shelter over your head, food on the table, clothes on your back, and people who love you, you are blessed. You have enough. Anything you have over and above that — and let’s admit that all of us reading this blog have more than that — is more than enough. Be good with that, and you’ll find contentment.
Do you compare yourself to others? What helps you quiet the comparisons?