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The Harsh Reality of Making Comparisons

We all do it sometimes: we look at others and wish we had what they have. Or we judge them and think of ourselves as superior. It’s human nature to covet a neighbor’s greener grass and  judge another neighbor’s dust and weeds. Intellectually, we know that comparisons don’t serve us. But we do it anyway and end up feeling jealous, stressed, anxious, and unhappy.

In this post we will talk about what to do when you catch yourself judging or negatively comparing yourself. Use these tips to live a much happier life being who you are!

How To Stop Negative Comparisons

When you’re tempted to judge others:

  • Train yourself to notice something positive about them. There’s always something.
  • Seek to understand. Their point of view is just as valid as yours.
  • Be compassionate. There’s always a backstory you know nothing about.
  • The artificial inflation from feeling superior to someone is a fleeting ego boost that is easily knocked down: putting yourself “above” others in an effort to feel better will backfire as soon as you notice people who are “above” you.
  • Humility is the best approach. Always talking about how much better you are than others is tiresome at best, and someone will always comes along who will out-”whatever” you.

When you’re tempted to negatively compare yourself: 

  • Focus on excellence, not perfection. Nobody is perfect. Perfection is unattainable! How do you define perfection when it comes to something as complex as a human being? Instead, focus on always doing your best.
  • Appreciate your unique approach. Don’t compare yourself to others because that takes away what makes you special and unique. It is said that for every song, there is an audience. You may not resonate with everybody, and that’s okay. The point is, focus on what you do, what you bring to the world, and you’ll have an impact on those who appreciate you and what you do.
  • Whatever “less than” feelings you’re having are temporary. Someone will always come along who is better, faster, etc. than you and your idol. Think of all the people who set “unbreakable” records only to have some punk kid knock them off their pedestal. Think about people who say, “I’m the best.” Today, yes. Tomorrow… no. Achievements and records are stepping stones that encourage others to push themselves harder, to reach higher, to achieve more. There will always be someone who raises the bar.
  • Instead of resenting someone for what they are/do/have, use them to inspire you! What do they do that you aren’t doing that you can emulate? Can you adopt some of the ways they think? What challenges did they overcome?  Can you overcome them too?
  • You are comparing yourself against an idea, not reality. In reality, you’re not wishing to be/do/have everything just like that person, only an idealized version of that person. “First resentments” cloud your perception. If you meet someone who has it all you may feel resentful. But you don’t know them. You don’t see the big picture. Most of the time, if you got to know the person, they would not live up to the idealized version you made up in your mind. Everyone has challenges, flaws, weaknesses, pains, and problems!
  • Learn to love “enough.” Stress and suffering come from always wanting more. If you always want more, you will never have enough. Learning to love what you have leads to a profound transformation. It leads to contentment. It leads to releasing the need to compete, compare, and outdo others.
  • Spend your time in a better way. Comparing yourself to others takes time and mental energy. Your time and energy are limited. There are only so many hours in a day so why waste them making yourself feel awful and putting your focus on something you can’t control? Spend your time doing one thing today that will improve the situation you want to change.
  • Realize that you are seeing the results, not the efforts. How much sacrifice, time, and work went into someone mastering their craft or their sport? You don’t know what they had to overcome to get where they are.
  • Humanize them: Just because one aspect of them makes you feel “less than” doesn’t mean their life is perfect in every way. Otherwise, why would so many celebrities be in rehab? Look at them from a more balanced and compassionate perspective. They’re darn near close to perfect in some areas, but may be woefully lacking in others.
  • Comparison kills the joy of accomplishment. If you just ran your first 5K and you start comparing yourself to the winner, you diminish the joy of your own achievement. Be happy with what you’ve accomplished and set the bar a little higher each time.

Accept Where You Are

Accepting where you are doesn’t mean settling for where you are. It’s a starting point. Here you are, here are your options, and here is what you want. If you compare yourself to someone who has been putting in the effort, you’re just going to feel badly. So accept “this” as your starting point, and as you progress, only compare yourself to where you were last week.

Live Your Story

Whether you’re putting yourself “above” someone else or feeling “below” another, remember that life is not a competition.

You are here to learn the things you need to learn and experience the things you need to experience.

You’re not here to live someone else’s story. No matter how successful, rich, powerful, accomplished or celebrated they are… they are still subject to the same laws of Nature as you: birth, aging, and death. The same goes for those you look down on. So ultimately, at our core, we are all equal.

What matters is not what others make of their lives, it’s what you make of yours. Live your story. Discover your gifts, develop them, let them shine, and share them with as many people as you can.