As much as we all try to deny it, comparing ourselves to others is part of our daily life. Whether its comparing how we look, where we work, how much money we have, or even how we run our family, its a major component of our thinking process, either conscious or subconscious. Unfortunately, it’s also a major contributor to unhappiness and dissatisfaction with our lives. The main problem being that we compare the wrong things and without all of the facts. We make haste judgements about someone’s life and assume only the positive we see is true. We question why our life or why we ourselves don’t live up to what we witness. We wonder how they managed to make more money or feel jealous that they do make more money and have more financial stability. We envy the quality time they spend with family or the adventures they have. All of this does not account for the reality that is the rest of their life and sets us up for disappointment because our life as a whole cannot live up to this one snapshot of the picture we are seeing.
Comparing two things is to automatically assume one is better than the other. By definition to compare means to estimate, measure, or note the similarity or differences between two things. Its done through observation and includes a bit of assumption. Comparing your reality to the imagined or assumed reality of someone else leads to a drastic hit on your self-esteem and negatively impacts your happiness. While there are positive uses of comparison, for example looking at someone less fortunate and using that as a comparison to be grateful for what you have, these are much less common uses of comparison when used against yourself.
You cannot win when you compare yourselves to others. We are our own worst critic and will usually find our own flaws first. Comparing to others amplifies our own flaws while minimizing theirs. In essence, comparisons are unfair. Add in the fact that you are comparing one known reality to one assumed fantasy and its a lose lose situation. Every person is unique and therefore it is not fair to compare any two people. It’s like comparing apples to oranges as they say. Just because you are two people who come into contact does not mean that you have any of the same factors to compare. Trying to compare yourself to someone else based on what you witness removes all other elements from the picture. This leads to an endless amount of comparisons, none of which you can win because they continuously lead to yet another comparison.
Ultimately, the greatest downfall of comparison is that it puts the focus on the wrong person. Its takes your focus away from yourself and puts it on the other person. You cannot control anyone’s life but your own and comparing yourself to others wastes energy by focusing on that other person rather than on the changes you could be making to reduce the desire to compare. Comparison is often driven by a perceived deficit in our self, low self-esteem, or envy because someone has what we want. The bottom line is, the comparison does nothing to improve us, lead us to what we desire, or improve what we feel insufficient in. So to lessen the desire to compare we must change the focus back onto ourselves. We can do this through basic thinking changes that improve self-esteem and motivate positive change rather than build the resentment and low self-esteem that comparing does.
Techniques to Stop Comparing:
- Focus on the positives: stop noting what you lack and what others have. Change the focus to what you do have, on your positive traits, and amplify your successes. They may not be the same as someone else’s, but they are yours and they are meaningful.
- Remind yourself of the dangers of comparing: remember that you cannot win when you compare and that comparisons are always unfair.
- Be kind to yourself and others: comparisons are in essence a form of judgment. While judgement can be both positive and negative, the negative types are easier to make and more frequent. Focus on the positives to reduce judgment and comparison. How you think about others will greatly impact how you think about yourself.
- Appreciate what you have: reduce the competition and envy by accepting and appreciating what you have.
- Remember that nobody is perfect: when comparing you are often comparing to only one part of a person, generally something that you strive for in yourself. Remember that it is only one area of that person and that they have flaws just as you do. They might even be thinking the same thing about you in that moment.
- Change the focus back onto yourself: rather than comparing yourself to someone else, focus on what and why you are comparing. There is most likely an underlying reason that you feel compelled to compare that aspect of yourself to someone else. Target that and make the changes needed to improve and feel confident, reducing the need to compare and stop wasting your precious time and energy.