I think we have all, at one point or another, been trapped in the icky, sticky comparison game. Maybe it was a coworker who excels at the job, a social media friend who has it all together, a couple whose relationship is dreamy, or a person with a shared passion whose craft or business is better than ours.
Sometimes it can be hard to identify when you’re comparing yourself to someone in the first place because comparison often comes out as extreme annoyance or hatred of someone. You might have heard from yourself or from a friend something along the lines of: They’ve had everything handed to them-or–She cares too much about appearances–or–Usually people who post so much about their relationship are actually miserable–or—Why is her business doing so well? It’s not even that good. Friend, you jealous.
Other times, it’s pretty obvious and it doesn’t take much detective work to conclude we aren’t feeling great about where we are because of where someone else is. Wherever you are, thanks for joining me.
When it comes to comparison I’ve heard, “Don’t compare someone else’s highlight reel to your behind the scenes.” There’s truth here, but it’s not complete. Maybe the object of your comparison is really good at their job but has a horrible relationship with their family. Maybe the social media queen has perfected the “candid” laughing photo but is actually depressed. Maybe the couple who has such a supposedly great relationship fights all the time. Maybe the woman doing so well following your shared passion is super lonely. You can’t see their whole life to confirm (unless you’re hardcore stalking them, which I hope you’re not) so there’s really no way to know.
Thinking about their tragic behind the scenes can be helpful but I think staying there is lazy. Also, sometimes someone else’s highlight reel is better than ours. Some people have perfected an Instagram theme. Some not so much. Some people have a great family and a wonderful relationship and amazing friends and a well behaved child and/or dog. Sometimes people are more well-rounded than you; some people are good at more things than you. That’s just reality.
And it’s why we have to develop better coping skills when it comes to comparison. Otherwise, we’ll keep shrinking into ourselves or lashing out at others. We’ll be insecure, angry, and miserable.
I believe it’s all about adjusting your focus.
Here are three ways I’m learning to do that:
1) Shift your attention to what you admire about the person you keep comparing yourself to (you can manage to do this even if they are overall a bad person). Is it your co-worker’s drive, confidence, or how going they are? Is it your social media friend’s flawless photos or how he travels all the time or all the friends she has? Is it the type of dates the dream couple goes on or the way neither partner seems to throw a fit about all the selfies they’re force to take? Is it how refined the person with your shared passion’s craft is, their social media following, or the way they aren’t afraid to put themselves out there? Sit down and name the quality of the other person or the aspect of their life you wish you had. Admire them for being that way or chasing that lifestyle. Good for them–they’ve shown you it can be done. Then brainstorm how you can get a step closer. How can you gain more confidence? How can you travel more? How can you and your partner communicate better? How can you get better at your craft? Google it! There are so many resources online at how to do things. Finally, set some reasonable goals and begin your journey.
Which, brings me to…
2) Concentrate on the sensation of building skills rather than on where you currently are compared to where you feel you need to be. If all you do is compare yourself to where someone else is or where you want to be, you’ll keep coming up short. Even if you do surpass the original person you were comparing yourself to, you’ll likely find someone else even further ahead of you. And if you’re anything like me, the standards you have for yourself are constantly changing to remain out of reach. Concentrating on the sensation of building a skill while you’re doing it reflecting on the moments you did so at the end of the day can do wonders. Think about how empowering it feels to to become better at something, how riveting it is to put yourself out there, what a relief it is to be making progress rather than standing still, afraid to move. It’s awesome! Let yourself enjoy your job or your passion even if you’re not the best. Appreciate your partner even if they have quirks. Have fun laughing in photos even if you look like a raptor when you do (self, I’m looking at you).
(Even not playing the comparison game is a muscle that needs to be built so give yourself a break if it’s not easy.)
3) Zoom out to see the bigger picture. Your life is so much more than the quality or skill you’re hyper-focusing on. There is more to you and more to your time on earth than how driven or photogenic you are, than how successful your work life or passion project is, than whether or not you’re in a relationship, than how many people follow you on Twitter. You can really suck at something or have parts of your life that aren’t super glamorous and still decide to have a good time. You’re not obligated to be perfect or the best at something in order to enjoy it. Other areas of yourself and your life are worth being proud of even if there are other areas you don’t like. Zoom out and remind yourself of that as often as necessary.
I know I used a numbered list to present these tactics to adjust your focus when it comes to comparison, but that doesn’t mean I’m great just yet at implementing them. I simply know when I do, I see results. And I hope you do too.
What as worked for you in overcoming the tendency to compare yourself to others? I’d love to hear about it!
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