After ranting about a friend who seemed to “have it all”-the perfect life, great friends, a flawless figure, a fabulous mate, and a wonderful job, a wise mentor put her hand up to stop my blabbering and told me, “Never compare, or you’ll always despair”. The more I thought about it, the more it rang true. Each time I compared my own body, job, friends, family, and life to someone else, I felt a pang of despair. Mine wasn’t good enough. Theirs was better. Every time I compared, I felt worse about myself and my progress. What’s the secret to learning how to stop those incessant “compare and despair” thoughts? Here’s four steps to begin to shift this way of thinking:
- Understand that you don’t really know what others are dealing with. Don’t let outer appearances fool you. That beautiful, trendy, self-assured girl you pass by on your way to get coffee may not be what she seems. Problems, insecurities, and issues may lurk beneath the surface; problems that you can’t possibly be aware of just by looking at someone. We are so good at putting on the façade that everything is “fine”, and we can never accurately assess what someone is dealing with just by looking at them. Remember that someone who looks put together does not mean they are not dealing with something bigger beneath the surface.
- Focus on your own progress. As soon as you hear that nagging voice in your head chime in with “she looks better in that outfit than I do”, “she’s prettier than I am”, or “she has a nicer car, better body, a more fulfilling job, etc…..STOP. Pause, take a deep breath and allow that quiet loving voice buried behind those incessant thoughts to be heard. Ask yourself: what are your accomplishments today, this week, this month? How have you made progress on yourself, with your journey, and/or in your life? Even if it’s something simple. Eating a nourishing snack instead of a candy bar. Going on a walk with a friend instead of sitting on your couch. Catching a negative thought about your appearance and consciously replacing it with something positive. All of these things are progress. When you turn the focus back in on YOUR journey, it’s easier to celebrate the little milestones and be grateful for YOUR progress as you move forward.
- Ask Yourself: How do these comparisons relate back to your own life? Jealous of another woman’s figure? Envious of her job? Career? Boyfriend? Ask yourself what it is that you really want when you feel these nagging comparisons rearing their ugly heads. Body envy may indicate you want to feel accepting and confident in your own skin. Jealousy of another person’s social life may mean you want to feel loved and accepted amongst your peers. When we feel envious, there is something deeper that we want. What we usually want are the intangibles. It isn’t the purse, car, outfit, or new job that we REALLY want; deep down what we are longing for is happiness, peace, or fulfillment. THAT is what we are usually looking for. The material things indicate we need to go deeper into ourselves to find it is what we really want.
- Brainstorm ways to bring more “intangibles” into your life. Once you figure out what you’re really looking for when you compare yourself to others, find ways to bring more of that into your life. Are you looking to be more accepting of yourself and your own body? Make a list every day of five things you truly value about yourself, both physically and mentally. Reflect on that list and really mean it when you list those things. Do you want to be able to be yourself amongst your group of friends or peers? Take a look of clubs you can join or leagues that offer your favorite sport. There are tons of meet-up groups that have specific activities tailored to different life interests. When you actively engage in ways to bring more of what you’re looking for into your life, more peace, self-acceptance, happiness, and fulfillment, you won’t be so caught up in the comparison game.
Remember that comparing yourself to others is really about you. In what areas of your life are you comparing yourself to others? Work through the steps to see if you can begin to shift your perception and relate it back to taking positive strides in your own life.