How do you stop comparison from being your poison?
Easy and quick answer to the title of this blog post: You stop comparing yourself with others. Sounds too obvious and perhaps too hard! Let us do what we do best, complicate – at least before making it simple.
I bet you spend a considerable amount of your time scrolling down social media, checking out the latest on that huge influencer or famous public figure you follow as if your life depends on it. Their lives seems to be a sequence of smart decisions and successful accomplishments. Their personality is contagious, they know what to say and how to say, they have millions of followers, apart from all the influence and money. How could they not be happy and fulfilled?!
On top of that, you follow all your other friends, colleagues, acquaintances who also seem to have everything working in their favor. Some of them just bought a fancy house or a new brand car, others got a big fat promotion or are successful business owners.
Then you do a quick review of your own life. A mortgage to pay, a car that gives you headaches, a job that you no longer enjoy or has become too stressful for what you get paid, children you love but who drain all your energy, barely enough money nor time to go on vacation. And the list goes on and on, until the last thing you can remember to point out.
Do you recognize the major flaw in this picture? What are you comparing after all? I can tell you what I see. Someone comparing potential achievements – not even definite – of other people (some of them whom you barely known) with one’s own shortcomings or non-full accomplishments.
Let me ask you: How much do you really know of other people’s lives? Why do you even care? And how many of your achievements are you leaving out from this rushed overview? This being just the tip of the iceberg. I mean, you could dedicate your whole life analyzing other people’s successes and failures to then compare it with yours. What would be the point though? Would you feel better, smarter, more fulfilled? Honestly, I have serious doubts. Firstly, due to our tendency to always want more and better (whatever that means!) and second because having more is not synonym of a purposeful and happy life.
Below are 5 strategies to help you end this cycle of comparison, and instead let your uniqueness shine, while growing into the best version of yourself.
1. Focus on your strengths: You have a unique set of traits, experiences, strengths, abilities, beliefs, values, that make you who you are. Sure, there will be always areas where you feel less comfortable, things that do not come naturally to you and that you would like to do better. This is true for you as well for everyone else. Wouldn’t it be smarter to focus on what you are good at and become even better? Comparing your strengths or weak spots with others will not give you any advantage, same as obsessing about what others are great at that you are not. Actually, recognizing other people’s strengths can be an asset the next time you would like to ask them for help or develop your skill set in a particular field. By focusing and playing to your strengths, you are opening a window of endless opportunities for your own personal and professional development. If the colleague sitting next to you is math genius and the one everyone goes to when they need to make sense of some figures; you are great at facilitating decision-making or conflict resolution during team meetings. We are all different and it is that uniqueness we bring to the table that others come to respect and admire.
2. Acknowledge your achievements: How come does it look so much easier to acknowledge other people’s achievements in detriment of our own? Why do we make our accomplishments seem smaller and less relevant? Focusing on what we are yet to accomplish is looking at the half empty glass. What if you were to shift perspectives and try looking at the half full glass? It is only a good sign that you are ambitious having still considerable goals ahead of you. Same way that others have certainly their own plans. However, playing yours down or paying more attention to other people’s achievements is definitely not the best approach. You have dedicated your time and efforts into the goals you have accomplished so far, therefore you must feel nothing but proud of yourself. When it comes to what others have achieved, you have no way to measure or know how much of their sweat and tears they have shed, nor it should matter to you. You can waste your precious time and energy being envious, or you can celebrate together their wins being part of something much bigger than yourself.
3. Practice gratitude: It sounds as if gratitude is always part of the picture. Indeed it does. Gratitude is one of our biggest and selfless gifts to ourselves as well as to others. When you are able to recognize what you are grateful for – things, people, thoughts, values – you become more whole. You are opening your heart to the goodness and the greatness, to the beauty surrounding you. If you are grateful for what you have, then comparing yourself with others loses its relevance. Albeit sounding as a purifying ritual or mechanism, it is way simpler than that. You have this integrity within you. Perhaps you feel as you lost it along your journey, but you are always in time to get it back. So, practice gratitude every single day. Through your thoughts, your words, your actions. Remind yourself of the simplest things, those we usually take for granted, those whose existence we have forgotten. Next time you start comparing yourself with someone else, including what they have more than you, bring to mind what you have and let gratitude feed your heart and soul.
4. Embrace the competition: Our tendency to compare to the neighbor next door is encrypted into our brain since early ages. You probably recognize the saying the grass is always greener on the other side. Well, one may say that there are different shades of green and not all fitting to the same taste. If you notice that a friend, a colleague, someone close to you has similar strengths or has accomplished something you would gladly add to your achievements’ list, why not learn from them? Engaging in healthy competition can be the motivator you need to keep your goals on track, to identify areas for improvement. It does not have to be about comparison, rather a kind of partnership where both parties win. Even when focusing on strengths, there is always something to be learned from others as well as something to be taught. It may also be that what others have, at the end has nothing to do with what you want for yourself. This is a good opportunity to refrain your brain from immediately presuming that what others have is always more and better. At first glance, the grass may seem of a fluorescent green but when you look closely it is after all a dark green. Other people’s favorite shade does not have to be yours.
5. Be your own best friend: If we are talking about comparison, how tough are you on yourself compared with how you are to others? Yes, others can be critical at times. However, we can be our worst enemy, letting our inner critic gain ground while we soak in self-doubt and commiseration. You should aim to turn down the volume of your inner critic, and act as your own best friend instead. Look yourself in the mirror and imagine that you are talking to your best friend. They are complaining about their lives, pointing out how many mistakes they did and how much others have that they do not. What would you tell them? (And nodding in agreement is not a viable option here!). Practice this talk in the mirror or inside your head. Being patient and understanding with yourself is an act of kindness you should practice more often. No reason to be a supportive and kind friend to others, but not being that person to yourself.
Being stuck in comparison does not leave any room for improvement and growth, rather a life of frustration and envy. I say it is time to stop comparing yourself with others. It is not only an unhealthy habit, but rather a deadly poison. Instead, focus on yourself, your strengths and celebrate your achievements. While striving to grow and be better, remember to be grateful and kind to yourself.
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