It's a bad habit
In the ongoing journey to understand and connect with ourselves, there's a habit I've certainly wallowed in from time to time, often unconsciously, that seems to be a real bugaboo for most people: the tendency to compare ourselves to others.
Isn't learning from others part of growing and improving?
Well, it certainly can be, if it's done in a healthy way. We emulate those we admire and avoid copying the behaviors of those we don't admire. That's all well and good.
But what I'm talking about is calculating our self-worth by comparing our accomplishments or abilities (or appearance or education or talents) with those of someone else. It's so ingrained in our sports-worshiping, Hollywood-influenced culture, we don't even realize we're doing it, but it's a practice and thought pattern we need to be aware of and recognize it for what it is—a trap for feeling unworthy.
“Comparison is the thief of joy,” said Theodore Roosevelt.
Your issues may not be my issues
For most of us, it's worse in some area of our lives than another. I may not be intimidated by someone's higher educational achievements, because I'm fairly well-educated myself. But when I'm around a woman my age who looks like a model, all my poor body image bells and whistles go off at the same time.
As R. Kay Green wrote in an article for the Huffington Post called 4 Steps to Self-Actualization and Becoming the Best Version of You, “The only thing that matters is your progress, not the progress of others. If you hope to self-actualize — or at least get on the path to self-actualization — you must stop gauging yourselves against other people's accomplishments…You must not work from a standpoint of how you compare; rather, you must work from a standpoint of where you are personally and independently of everyone else.”
Six steps to stop comparing yourself to others
Recognizing you're comparing yourself to others in a way that diminishes your self esteem is a huge step towards doing something about it. Here are some other mindset shifts that can help:
- Look for your own successes and celebrate them, even small ones.
- Cultivate gratitude. When you focus on the things for which you're grateful, the negativity fades into the background.
- Celebrate the “Vive la différence” mentality. How wonderful that we're each unique and special.
- Reach out to help someone else. Those with whom you're comparing yourself are often battling challenges and inner demons you wouldn't take on for a second, and being compassionate gets your mind off yourself.
- Get a vision in your mind of what your best, happiest self might be. If there are inconsistencies between that vision and where you are now, dig deep and analyze what steps you might begin to take to narrow the gap.
- Develop a mantra and repeat it each day: “Today, I want to be the best me I can possibly be. That will happen one choice at a time.”
Have you struggled with the tendency to compare yourself to others and found yourself wanting? If you've found some tips or tools to help counter this, please share in the comments below. We need to build each other up and concentrate on changing the world, not stressing out over perceived inadequacies.
Easy? Absolutely not?
Worth it? Oh, yes indeed.