A characteristic of today’s society is the way we constantly compare ourselves with everyone else. And it’s not just a casual comparison, oh no, we compare our clothes, our haircuts, our jobs, the amount of exercise we do, the type of food we eat, the weekend activities we engage in, the brilliance of our children, the hours we spend at work, the importance of our careers, the difficulties we’re facing in life, yada yada yada!! Our lives can easily turn into a non stop race with everyone around us. And we don’t even mean for that to happen – it just does.
But staying on the comparison treadmill is a fool’s game because:
1.You are comparing apples with oranges: Of course you put your best foot forward, highlighting your strengths and the things about yourself that you hope will impress others, while hiding your less attractive aspects. We all do that because it’s human nature for us to want others to like us. We work hard to present a sanitized version of ourselves to the world.
We compare the real us (we definitely know what our failings are!) with the whitewashed version that others are presenting. At a dinner party, you are impressed with the amazing meal that you know you can’t cook and it makes you feel small, pathetic and a failure. What you don’t realize is that your hostess is desperately unhappy at work because she feels inadequate in her new role. We compare the visible partial story of others with the full truth about ourselves.
2. Comparisons are like a family photo taken at a wedding: That photo doesn’t represent your entire life, only what is happening that day. Circumstances change and while others might be thriving at the moment while I’m in a difficult situation, it won’t always be like that.
When I think about the people I most admired when I was younger, I’ve been shocked at how some of their lives have played out. Some have encountered tragedy while others have gone off track in ways I couldn’t have imagined. On the flipside, others I regarded as “uncool” and the “most unlikely to succeed,” have had meaningful and interesting lives. Comparisons made over drinks on Friday night or through Facebook do not tell the full story of what a person achieves or contributes during the course of their life. Everyone’s full story only gets told at the end of their lives.
3. Comparisons don’t tell the backstory. You may be in a difficult situation because things happened outside of your control. You may have battled the odds to get to where you are while the person next to you has had opportunities you never had and has been supported by a loving community and family. Her achievements haven’t been as hard won as yours, but few people will ever know that.
Social media has ramped up the “let’s compare” game to a whole new level. How often do you post a status report on yourself on Facebook with the sole aim of impressing others? We all do it and then spend the next few hours checking how many “likes” and comments we’ve received. I love social media because it’s enabled me to reconnect with friends and people from my past and to meet new groups of interesting people. Unfortunately, the flip-side is that is easy to constantly compare yourself with others. This is unhealthy and unless challenged, can lower your self-esteem.
Comparing ourselves with others is a habit we get into. This week start paying attention to how often you compare yourself to others. Recognizing bad habits is the first step to overcoming them. Then start choosing not to compare yourself, particularly in areas of your life where it doesn’t matter.
Playing the comparison game is a waste of your time and energy that you could be using to spend doing things that grow you as a person and contribute to the lives of others.
What areas of your life do you find the most difficult to avoid comparisons. Who are the people that draw you into that game? I’d love to hear in a comment below how comparing yourself with others makes you feel.
Image by The Busy Brain