One of my very favorite quotes that I refer to often in therapy and in my own life is: “Comparison is the thief of joy”, said by Theodore Roosevelt.
Mr. Roosevelt was on to something big. Before the age of positive psychology or the strong push for self-awareness, he understood that we will never be truly joyful if we are continually comparing ourselves to others.
There will always be someone smarter, better looking, more successful, stronger, and happier.
When we look to others for our own self validation or measure of joy, we are setting ourselves up for continual let down and disappointment.
So how do you stop comparing yourself? Here are a few tips to get you started:
2. Practice gratitude
Spend your energy focusing on the positives in your own life. What are you grateful for? How are you blessed? Keep a daily gratitude journal. Teach your brain to focus on the positive instead of the negative. Focus on the things you do have instead of the things you don’t.
3. Don’t let yourself get derailed
When you start to compare yourself to someone else, or start to feel bad about who you are, check yourself! Consciously recognize what you’re doing and get yourself back on track.
4. Stay in the present
The past causes depression and the future causes anxiety. Stay in the present as much as possible! It’s like driving a car and you’re looking out the windshield at where you currently are.
The rearview mirror is the past. The side mirrors are the future. Of course you need to glance at them every now and then to help your driving.
But what would happen if you drove your car only looking at the mirrors? Depression and anxiety make you feel bad about the present and make you more susceptible of comparing yourself to those around you.
5. Take care of yourself
Be kind to yourself. Practice self-compassion. Give yourself a break and cut yourself some slack! The better you take care of yourself, the less concerned you are with the things you don’t have. And the more energy you have to get the motivation to get to where you want.
6. Find validation from within yourself
Looking to others for validation will only set you up for failure. Looking within yourself to set your own bar is essential. You are in the place you’re at for a reason. Every person’s journey is different.
Your journey isn’t supposed to be exactly like everyone else. There is no mold that is a one size fits all. Your own journey and what’s good for you is a healthy gage to be comparing yourself to.
Sarah Higgins, MA, LPC – www.chrysalisfamilygrowth.com
We have all had the urge to compare ourselves with others.
I can remember being in a yoga class and seeing the flexibility in others, and feeling a longing to be more flexible both physically and mentally. I could stretch for hours, and not be able to do certain things. Anatomically, my body isn’t designed that way. Before I adopted this thought as belief for me, I spent many hours wasting time and energy trying to be something I’m not. Maybe you can relate. I call it “spinning wheels”. It’s like a hamster on a wheel, exerting tremendous time and energy spinning that wheel, yet going absolutely nowhere.
That’s what comparing ourselves to others is like.
I suspect it may originate with Darwin and the “survival of the fittest” belief. Survival of the fittest holds there are winners and losers in life. If we aren’t the winner, by default we are the loser.
If we hold beliefs like this to be true, our lives become reduced to ceaseless competition.
We feel an impulse, need, or desire to be more beautiful, more successful, wealthier, more traveled, have a better job/position, get the best grades, etc. And where does any of that actually get anyone? Are people who are more beautiful, richer, more traveled, more successful, actually any happier?
I’ve certainly seen documentaries featuring some blissfully happy people living very simple lives without a care in the world for how their life compares to another.
Thoughts affect feelings which in turn, affect behavior.
For example, when I think to myself, “I’m not good enough to be in this relationship,” then I may feel melancholy, depressed, and withdrawn. When I feel melancholy, depressed, and withdrawn, I may avoid my significant other, or ignore calls or texts. The more I isolate, the worse I feel. The worse I feel, the more out of control my thoughts and beliefs about myself become. At this point, I’m on the hamster wheel again, spinning, going nowhere.
The good news is, the other side of comparison is cooperation.
We can learn to work together with others, and develop our own inner strengths (working in cooperation with our own innate nature). We all have gifts, talents, and abilities which are unique to us and make us special. I believe we each have a purpose in life, and a path as unique as we are. When we focus on that (internally), the rest (external) becomes less significant.
Here are some tips for developing new habits (to diminish comparison and increase cooperation):
1. Exit social media.
The world does not cease to exist because someone takes a social media fast. In fact, taking a social media hiatus can help us put more time and energy into to increasing the quality of the actual relationships we have with people we have in person contact with. Taking a break removes the trigger. If it’s not in our face every moment, it is easier to separate ourselves from it.
2. Build on strengths.
Thinking about our individual super powers and how we can use those to be in service to others, creates a meaningful purpose in life. When we have a meaningful purpose in life and work towards that, we feel happy.
3. Focus on the internal, not the external.
People can put on elaborate shows of beauty and success publicly and be quite miserable privately. Trauma and suffering are often shielded from the public “persona” or public view. Remember that things and people are not always how they appear.
4. Continue to evaluate and redefine what success means to you.
What will you be able to take with you when your body ceases to “live”? Figure out what is “lasting” and focus some time and energy on those qualities.
5. Get to the root of the “lack”.
Is it a belief about unworthiness or feelings of not being good enough? If so, seeing a therapist to process through those beliefs and working to develop new beliefs can be very helpful.
6. Do something different.
Change something up. The same thoughts create the same feelings, which produce the same behaviors. If we want to change, we must be willing to take action. We have to think a different thought to produce different behaviors. Or we can change our behaviors and produce different thoughts and feelings. They are all interconnected.
Lori Russell-Siemer, LCSW – www.lorirussellsiemer.com