Let’s be honest: At some point in our lives, we all look over someone else’s fence and compare ourselves.
The problem with comparison is that it is a sure self-confidence crusher, a catalyst to unhappiness and completely useless.
First off, many times we don’t compare apples to apples. Imagine if I would look at a Picasso, and then look at my drawings, and get devastated that I don’t measure up and should therefore quit my coaching business. How is that a fair comparison, you might ask? Yet we all do it; instead of focusing on our strengths, we compare our weaknesses with other people’s strengths, which is a really unfair and illogical comparison.
But what if you are comparing apples to apples? What if you look at your friends and see them in happy relationships, or having children while you are struggling to get pregnant or are currently divorced?
The other day, a client told me she can’t stop comparing herself to her ex’s new girlfriend, who is 20 years younger than her. It kills her to see how this young woman has what she doesn’t. When I questioned her on it, I asked her, “Do you know that she has what you have? Does she possess the wisdom, maturity and character you do?” Most likely not, so when you are comparing yourself to people’s “outsides”, don’t forget that you can’t compare it to your “insides”. You have what they don’t, and that is really the only thing that should matter to you.
I will never forget when a years ago, someone had seen me and my ex-husband play badminton a few weeks before we got separated. Thereafter, the person told me that they couldn’t believe it—they had seen me and my then-husband, and we had “seemed” so happy—we even played badminton. Truth be told, what we see on the surface of someone else’s life is just that—SURFACE. We don’t really know what goes on in their private lives and in their hearts. Think of Robin Williams—he managed to make us all think that he was a happy guy, but sadly, it was the furthest thing from the truth.
So how do we break free from comparing ourselves to others and letting it rob us from the joy of living our lives?
The first step to breaking this cycle is to become aware. Notice when you start comparing yourself, who you tend to compare yourself with and what triggers it. If you discover that you get triggered when you go through people’s pictures on social media whose lives “seem” perfect—while you are struggling—avoid scrolling and looking at other people’s lives. Once you become aware that you are comparing yourself to someone, and catch yourself in the act, STOP! Acknowledge the thought, but gently shift your focus onto things that bring you joy.
Here are some things you could shift your focus to:
· Count your blessings: We are all blessed with things in our lives which we seem to forget when we start comparing our lives to others’. Think about all the things you are fortunate to have in your life. They could be simple things, such as drinking water, internet access (which can be utilized in such powerful ways), your health, people who love and support you and the air you breathe. If you can’t find anything to be thankful for, visit a hospital ward, and you will quickly become aware of how truly lucky you are.
· Focus on your strengths: Focus on your strengths, rather than your weaknesses. We all have our strong points, yet sometimes, we seem to forget about them. Celebrate them! Take pride in your strengths. Make a list for yourself to help remind you when you get into a dark place and feel like you have nothing to offer to the universe. If you are struggling to make the list, ask a friend to help you.
· Accept your imperfections: Please accept this as truth—NO ONE is perfect! As much as we know this to be true, somehow we all tend to criticize ourselves for our imperfections. Learn to accept and embrace yourself with your imperfections. No one is perfect, and no one ever will be.
· Focus on the journey: Don’t focus on how you are scoring compared to others. Life is not a competition, but rather a journey, and we are all here to travel our own path. No one is exactly like you, with all your challenges and circumstances. Each and every single one of us is here to learn, to create, to become something. Your journey has nothing to do with how well others are doing. Just focus on yourself and what you want to accomplish.
· Learn to be content: As long as you compare your life to others’, you will never have enough, and you will always want more. No matter what you may have in your life, you will always find something you don’t have and want that. Learn to be content with what you have. If you have shelter over your head, food on your table, clothes on your back and people who love you, you are blessed. Many people don’t have that. So anything you have above that is more than enough. Focus on that, and you will learn to be content.
Let me leave you with this thought: Your story is so unique and so different, that it isn’t worthy of comparison. No one is the entire world can do a better job of you than you.