Comparing yourself to other people can quickly send you down a rabbit hole where you can get lost in the mire.
There’s always going to be someone else who makes more money, lives in a bigger house, wears more expensive shoes and has three different Hermes Birkin bags. Her life is just better than yours. Or is it? For all you know, she might have the bling but cries her eyes out every night on the bathroom floor.
Comparison is a sure-fire way to feel like what we’re doing and how we’re living our life is never good enough. Our comparisons are never fair. Each one of us is an individual with characteristics and life events that are unique to only us.
Comparisons lead to our self-worth being determined by the opinions of others. The nagging feelings we carry of not being good enough lead to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and envy. When we compare ourselves to others, we most often end up feeling undervalued, jealous, frustrated, and hopeless. It’s a slippery slope that can cause significant issues, like depression and anxiety.
On the flip side, measuring ourselves against our competitor’s achievements can inspire and motivate us to do better or rise to the same level.
Comparing apples to oranges
When we compare ourselves to others, there actually is no comparison. That’s because we are comparing our life experiences, successes and failures, relationships, and personal growth to someone else’s.
Life is not a mirror, and, in fact, it’s an unfair impossibility. Everyone’s journey is complex and their own. We all have different starting points, challenges and things that hold us back.
Comparing ourselves to others only sets us up for self-sabotage, disappointment, frustration and possibly failure because we never measure up in our own minds’ eyes.
Social media life is not real life
Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are good examples of modern-day opportunities for comparison. We browse friends’ photographs, read updates about their lives, and learn about big and special events that possibly we were excluded from.
Everyone has a filter these days, not just for how they look, but also the filter of “my life is so fabulous and better than yours”. What we see is usually curated, and we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. Most likely, the person we are comparing ourselves to is likely doing the same with someone else they aspire to be like.
Be our own benchmark
Look back. Way back. Back to when you were just starting out. Maybe just out of school or university. How were you doing? Now, fast forward to now. How does that look?
The best person to compare yourself to is yourself. This is a healthy comparison because we’re measuring the same person in the same circumstances. It’s about who we were and, where we were and how we are travelling now. The only fair comparison is the one you make with yourself.
The world is your oyster
When we stop comparing ourselves to others, we open ourselves up to a world of possibilities. We can focus on our own journey and be content with where we’re at.
Life is much more fulfilling when we focus on our own progress, not someone else’s, and it allows us to set healthy and realistic expectations of where we should be heading.
If you’ve found yourself like Alice down the rabbit hole and wondering where all the time has gone, then here are my handy hints on how to refocus and get back on track.
1. Focus on your own journey: What are your goals? What are you working towards? What progress have you made? Celebrating your own accomplishments, no matter how small (in your opinion), will help you feel good about yourself and stay focused on what matters. Celebrate your strengths. Celebrate your journey. Celebrate you!
2. Use your past self as your current benchmark: Your only real competition is with who you were yesterday, last month and last year.
3. Accept, validate and celebrate yourself as you are: Put your wins on your vision board, and now add goal visions of where you want to go and see yourself heading. Celebrate the amazing current and future you!
4. Be aware: We make comparisons without even realising. We need to build self-awareness and notice when comparisons are happening. It’s useful to stop for a moment and think about what is going on. Acknowledge the thoughts and bring the focus back to self.
5. Be okay with imperfection: No one is perfect. Intellectually, we all know that, but emotionally, we feel bad when we don’t reach perfection. Imperfection is what makes us who we are and allows us to grow. See the beauty in that.
6. Learn to love being and having “enough”: If you always want what others have, you will never have enough. You will always want more. It’s an endless cycle, and it won’t lead to happiness. Change your focus and realise that what you have is already enough.
7. Limit your time on social media: Social media can be great entertainment and keep us up to date with our family and friends. However, there’s evidence that too much social media, especially when consuming lifestyle and beauty content, can have a negative effect on our self-worth.
8. Count your blessings: Be grateful for what you do have, including your resourceful self. Instead of dwelling on what you don’t have, shift your perspective. Keep a gratitude journal and list five things to be grateful for every day.
9. Use comparison only as motivation: Comparisons can be a great catalyst for change. Let envy be a diagnostic flag of what you want to bring into your life.
10. Celebrate others: When we celebrate others, we let go of needing to compete or feel less than others.
11. Decide to feel complete and content now: Being content means you are happy, satisfied, and feel great about whatever it is you’re experiencing. Contentment is something to strive for in your life.
In the end, it’s all up to you. Will you keep comparing yourself to others, or will you decide that you are your own best litmus test?
“I don’t want other people to decide what I am. I want to decide that for myself.” – Emma Watson.
By Virginia Baker Woolf, retired university lecturer and founder of The Women’s Money Project and a Certified Money Coach.