There’s a reason why the expression “compare and despair” exists. Comparison crushes souls, and it will always steal your thunder.
Most times we compare ourselves to others without even realizing it. It happens in milliseconds, and leaves us with a sinking feeling that we are not enough, don’t have enough, or it gives us some false sense of superiority.
I’m sure there is an evolutionary reason why our brains default to comparison, probably comparing our status to others in terms of safety and ability to procure shelter and food back in the Stone Age kept us safe in some way.
To an extent, I can see how comparison produces a false sense of necessity. “If I don’t compare my status with that of someone ‘ahead’ of me, than how will I get to where I want to be?”
There is a difference between inspiration and comparison.
“Won’t comparison keep me moving forward? It motivates me!”
Much of my life was fueled by comparison and competition, which led to outward accomplishments, that were ego-based and fleeting in their ability to offer fulfillment. For years I did this with absolutely no awareness of it.
Today, I still find myself playing the comparison game. The difference now is that I am acutely aware of it, and because of that awareness, I am usually (not always) able to nip it in the bud.
I nip it in the bud because I now know that it no longer serves me in ANY capacity. I use to think comparison made me feel better about myself, that it improved my self-esteem. I’d look at my curated social media accounts with an eye that always asked, “How would this look to someone who doesn’t know me? It looks pretty good. I’ve got my education listed, my handsome husband, events I’ve done. Yeah, I feel good about this. I feel good about me.”
What an egotistical and fleeting thing to hang your hat on. I don’t write this to beat myself up, but to point out that I thoughtthat comparison was actually helping me.
My ego was running the show, and ego never fulfills. Ego is fleeting. Ego is tenuous, and ego puts down others. My comparison game put me in a competition with everyone and would look for weaknesses in others to bolster my own self-esteem.
This is why self-esteem is different than self-worth. Self-esteem is based on comparison. You either have it or you don’t. It’s high or low and tethered to accomplishment.
Self-worth, on the other hand, knows that comparison is an illusion. It knows that no amount of outward validation will change the truth.
And the truth is this: nothing external fulfills nor lasts.
It is this truth that I remind myself on a daily basis because, well, old habits die hard.
How do we stop comparing?
First, we must build awareness. Try to notice your triggers. Do you find yourself scrolling through other people’s social media posts, looking at the number of followers they have, or likes? Do you watch HGTV and then pick apart your home and find yourself feeling dissatisfied?
Notice how you feel in your body after exposure to a trigger. Do you have a sinking feeling? A tightness in your chest? A feeling of heaviness?
Our physical cues are good ways to realize what our triggers are.
Next step: Stop consciously seeking your triggers. In other words, take a break from social media or LinkedIn. Step away from the shows that lead you to feel inadequate in some way.
Are people your trigger? Ask yourself what you are comparing yourself against.
Acknowledge that the person you are comparing with has bad days too, and probably compares themselves with others from time to time.
The day of my college graduation I had a young woman come up to me and say, “I so admire you, you’ve got it all together. I want to be like that, but my life is all over the place.” She had no idea I felt the exact same way, and at the time, my life truly was a hot mess that nobody saw (thanks Eating Disorder). The point is, we all do it, including those who we are comparing ourselves to.
Finally, give yourself a little compassion.
Try putting your hand on your heart and acknowledging that you’re doing a good job. You’re doing your best. You are not your things, and you are so much more than anything external. You and I poop just like Kim Kardashian poops. We are all worth the same, and that my friend, is a heck of a lot.