Comparing yourself with friends and strangers becoming a near-constant habit? Well you’re not alone – with Facebook and Instagram providing us with ample opportunities to contrast our lives with others it’s no wonder we constantly feel that just being ‘me’ isn’t enough. The habit may even be hardwired in our brain if the social comparison theory has it right. But while making comparisons may feed us a temporary ego boost, more often than not we’ll end up feeling worse about ourselves and resenting others.
The ‘ugly’ truth is, it’s extremely hard to ‘win’ when we play the comparison game: thanks to mass media and the internet, once we’re on the lookout for people who’re prettier or more successful or more popular, we’re bound to find scores of them (thanks to photoshop, good lighting, smart posing… you know the score)… But we’re not doing any justice to our unique gifts and contributions by stacking them up against what we believe others to have.
But what are we to do if looking at other people’s glamorous holiday photos or hearing about yet another friend receiving a promotion makes us feel like our successes and achievements pale in comparison with those of our peers?
Kick the comparison habit and start appreciating your own value more by making the following five adjustments…
Realise that comparisons are fundamentally unfair
The problem with the comparisons we make between ourselves and other people is that most of the time we’re comparing what can’t truly be compared. We’re all unique: no one has the exact same combination background, life experiences, challenges we’ve faced, influences and so on… How could we expect everyone to ‘progress’ at the same pace or ‘accomplish’ the same life goals at the same time, when everyone is walking a one-of-a-kind path?
Many times, we also end up overestimating other people’s strengths and underestimating our own: we may see idealised versions of other people and make unconscious assumptions about them, forgetting that everyone has their share of flaws and difficulties. True, the ‘highlight reels’ we see on social media often make people’s lives look amazing, but while most of us wouldn’t share struggles and difficulties publicly on social media, it sadly doesn’t mean they’re not there…
Transform comparison into inspiration
See someone living the life you want? Instead of taking it as evidence that you’re ‘behind’ in life and using their accomplishments as a stick to beat yourself with, look at their achievements as signposts: find inspiration from these people and learn everything you can about how they got there. You’re looking at a living proof that what you want is indeed possible, achievable and potentially within your reach.
Examine your motivations
If you haven’t ticked a particular box in ‘life’s to-do list’ while everyone else has, could it be that you’re actually not that passionate about it? Sometimes when we examine closely all those life goals we’ve always thought we wanted to achieve, we realise that some of them reflect somebody else’s wishes or society’s expectations more than our own desires.
Perhaps your true calling is to step away from the well-trodden path. Perhaps that long detour you took didn’t slow you down and take you further away from your goals, but instead allowed you to discover new goals that are more in alignment with who you are?
Compare if you must… against your past
If you find it difficult to quell the urge to compare, use it to your advantage and evaluate your achievements the fair way: against your past self. Not only does seeing how far we’ve come allow us to feel good about ourselves, but we don’t need to think less of anyone else to get the boost.
So celebrate each time you overcome a challenge or meet a personal goal – regardless of how your achievements stack up against those of others. Keep the focus on doing the best with what you’ve got, and set goals that align with who you want to be. Then keep moving towards that at a pace that’s comfortable for you.
Consider using different ‘metrics’
When we look at qualities like beauty, wealth, popularity, success and so on, it’s easy to forget that none of them actually guarantee a happy life. Still, the reason we want the things we want is because we believe we’ll be happier in having them… Could that be a backwards approach?
Jim Carrey once said:
I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.
Perhaps we should be focusing on different metrics of ‘success’, such as how much joy we’re experiencing, how peaceful we feel, how much we’re growing. Define what matters the most to you and let that be the primary goal in your life.0