It feels like an inevitable part of living in the ‘developed’ world in this century; comparing ourselves to others, in almost every aspect of our lives. Whether it’s our looks, our age, our accent or even what we wear, we are constantly encouraged (both openly and in less obvious and sometimes less ethical ways) to find faults in ourselves that don’t exist in the ‘perfect human’ we should aspire to be. Well I am calling ‘Time” on this b.s. (that’s a polite way of writing bullshit) and making it my mission to fight back against the feeding of self-doubt that is, just as we all suspected, really about someone else making money.
Comparison with others starts early in our lives, and often even before we are actually born. You only have to skim through your social media feeds to find images of expectant mothers comparing this pregnancy to their last, or to those of their peers. Soon enough, they are convinced, by these comparisons, that they are ‘too’ something or ‘should’ be feeling or doing something other than they are.
And throughout our childhood we are measured and compared for our ‘development’ using scales and tables and instruments, each accompanied by a set of comparisons that prove you fit into a certain ‘box’. And should you ever then change from that box to another – well, perish the thought! From pre-natal to post-mortem, we are compared at every stage and unless we’re very lucky, the comparisons have negative messages at least part of the time.
I found a wonderful quote on Pinterest recently, and despite my best efforts, I am unable to attribute it to an original author:
“The grass only looks greener on the other side because it’s being fertilised by bullshit!”
This is the core of the issue for me; when you compare yourself to another person, you’re not actually comparing yourself to a real person. You are seeing only what that person chooses to share, or portray in public. Do you actually think everything you see on social media is real and perfect? It is easy to believe the person sharing posts about confidence wakes up every day feeling on top of the world. It’s hard to imagine the successful writer sitting at their desk for hours on end questioning whether they have anything left worth writing about. Far easier to believe that everyone else has their ‘shit together’ and you are the only one who isn’t achieving your potential.
Next time you find yourself comparing yourself to another, stop and ask yourself what’s going on here. really? Are you looking for attention and sympathy because someone else put in the hard work and got the results? Or are you in fact feeling frustrated because you’re not being real about the situation – how many years has this person worked to be the ‘overnight success’ you’re comparing yourself to? Either way, give yourself a pep-talk and get real about this. You’re staying stuck with these kind of comparisons and that means staying small.
We’ve all heard the expression about only comparing yourself with the person you were yesterday; clever and thought-provoking, but in the current world very hard to achieve. I’d look at this in a different way, and next time you find yourself comparing yourself to someone, ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Am I comparing myself to someone I admire? If so what can I learn from their success. If not, see that as self-sabotage and shut it down. No really, play loud music or read something aloud if you have to, just shut down the pattern.
- Am I going to take action as a result of this comparison or just keep repeating the negative messages I gave myself the last time I did this. Always give yourself the chance to make this time, the time you take action.
- Am I feeding this with my own bullshit? Ouch. I know. But we all do it. We compare ourselves to someone who we hold in very high regard, perhaps even put them on a pedestal and then find all the things we are ‘less’ than they are. And in truthful moments, if we stopped building them up in our head, we could acknowledge our own growth, or achievement, as being equal to theirs.
In our society, where we are bombarded with messages about not being complete, or enough or somehow worthy of being held up for others as a comparison, we have to learn to shut out a lot of noise that does not serve us. My husband commented this morning how much more positive I am since we got rid of the full length mirrors in the house. I realised that all they served as for me was a way to constantly compare my reflection with the one in my head, and as any 51 year old will tell you, I’m still expecting to see a 35 year old me looking back. By removing the daily comparison I changed my focus and now feel much closer to my shoe size than my age.
I wonder what you regularly compare with others, or your ‘younger self’ that you’d benefit from leaving behind.