There is one piece of advice that I always give other people and that I have a hard time following myself. Here it is:
“Stop comparing yourself to others!”
Comparing ourselves to others seems to be a universal experience. We measure our success and our worth against others. We create our identities in relation to other people. We constantly try to create order in this crazy world by ranking and organizing information, including information about how we stack up against others.
Basically, comparing ourselves to others is normal. But that doesn’t mean that it’s helpful.
Here’s why you should stop comparing yourself to others:
You’re comparing the wrong things.
It’s easy to compare items that you can measure, like income or house size. It’s also easy to compare things that you can see, like clothing and cars. It’s nearly impossible to measure, let alone compare, the things that really matter, like how fulfilled you are at our work and in your personal relationships. When you compare yourself to others, you can’t help but focus on the superficial, instead of recognizing the factors that are proven to make you happier.
When you compare yourself using the wrong measurements, you start focusing on the wrong things. You lose sight of your goals and start living for external approval. Comparing yourself also means that you focus too much on other people and what they have, instead of focusing on yourself and what you want to achieve.
There is no end.
If you want to compare yourself to others, then there are an infinite number of categories you could use for comparison. Who has better shoes? Who has a flatter stomach? Who has a fatter paycheck, more well-behaved children, fewer gray hairs? Who has traveled to more countries or saved more money for retirement or gotten the most “friends” on social media? Once you start down the path of comparison you don’t ever need to stop.
No one wins.
Research shows that when you compare yourself to others and feel that you don’t measure up, it can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression. It also makes it more difficult for you to trust other people. On the flip side, when you compare yourself to someone who you feel is less fortunate, you start down a dangerous path of judgement and competition. If you’re self-worth is based on feeling like you’re better than someone else, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. You’re not always going to measure up, and when you don’t, you’re liable to be extra judgemental and hard on yourself because that’s how you’ve been treating others.
What to do instead:
As I mentioned, it’s easy to say “stop comparing yourself to others,” but hard to actually do that. Here are some strategies that can help:
It’s natural to want to compare, so try to turn your comparisons inward. How have you grown over the past year or five years? How are you a better person today than before?
Remind yourself that no one is perfect. The perfect lives you see on social media and the successful businesses you read about in the news are not real. We’re all guilty of shoving our metaphorical messes into the closet when company comes over. Be gentle with yourself and with others.
I often find myself giving the advice that “This is hard, but if you keep practicing, it will get easier.” Well, that advice applies here too. The more you confront your desire to compare yourself to others the easier it will get.
What strategies help you stop comparing yourself to others?