You have just received fantastic news that you just had a salary increase because of your excellent job performance. You are happy, delighted and grateful and jumping with joy. As you are about to leave the office, you saw an email announcement that one of your friends in the same department was promoted. Suddenly, you forgot all the joy, gratefulness and happiness you’ve felt. You’re now unhappy, and you are starting to compare what you have achieved to what your colleague has achieved. It’s very true how comparing ourselves indeed steals our joy.
I have experienced a lot of instances in my life where I’ve always compared myself to someone. And it’s funny that somehow, I am comparing myself to someone who has a different experience from me. Different experience meant that she or he was doing different work, we’re not from the same university, not of the same age and a lot more things.
In his book 12 Rules of Life, Jordan Peterson clearly said that comparing ourselves to someone is a mindless thing to do.
When we are growing up, it’s sensible if you’re comparing yourself children of the same age. You are all in the forming stage, you are in the same environment, and you have many similarities when it comes to the environment you are in.
But once you grow up, you will all have different choices that you choose to decide on with your lives. You become more exposed to a lot of things, a lot of culture, a lot of people etc..
If you’re comparing then yourself to someone, it’s as if you are saying that both of you came from the same experiences in your life which is rarely the case.
There’s actually two types of social comparison:
- Upward comparison – this is when we are comparing ourselves to people who are way above us. It’s like comparing your health and your body physique to an athlete who in all his life devoted himself to be fit because that’s his work.
- Downward comparison – this is when you are comparing yourself to people who are less fortunate than you are or those that are worse than you are.
Most of the time, we always make an upward comparison leading us to frustration.
The most effective way to deal with social comparison then is not to compare ourselves to less fortunate people always as this may lead to a fixed mindset where we choose to stay where we are because we feel a lot better. Although this may increase a bit of gratefulness in your life, it’s not that effective.
What is more effective then is to use upward comparison in a beneficial way where you’ll focus your comparison or narrow down your comparison to someone who you want to be that is ahead of you. For example, if you want to become a great basketball player then find a role model that is ahead of you for those sports. If you are a singer, then find a singer. If you are a life coach specializing in relationship coaching for married couples, then find a life coach or a role model that is ahead of you for that niche as well. Do not try to compare yourself to an inspirational speaker which is different from where you want to be. Or maybe comparing yourself to a body of an artist who in their whole life has been devoting their time to maintain their body. Use comparison in a more reasonable and sensible way.
Once you narrow your focus to one person or individual, instead of comparing yourself to a whole bunch of people. You can ask yourself these questions:
- What can I learn from this person?
- What does he or she do differently that I can learn from?
- What is his or her strength that is also my strength?
By asking yourself these questions, you are not treating that person as a competitor but someone from whom you can learn something from. It is being curious than being judgemental.
Now, here are more ways that you can use to stop comparing yourself. These have been adapted from Jay Shetty.
- Focus on your strengths
A lot of times we focus on our weaknesses. When we compare ourselves to others, we focus on their strength, what is great about them, their abilities or skills, and we compare it with our weakness.
I want you to reframe that kind of thinking and instead ask yourself every day, what am I good at? What are my strengths, and how can I approach this situation using those strengths?
There’s a lot of strengths finder tools that you can use to know your strength. The two most popular ones are the Cliffton Strengths Finder and the VIA Institute.
One of my key strength is positivity. And it has been useful to me for a lot of times. People would always say that I am happy. Well, it’s not that I am always happy, I just use my strength of positivity to always look at the better perspective for each situation.
- Define what success is for you.
Defining success should include the five essential aspects of your life. Physically, Mentally, Emotionally, Spiritually and Financially.
If you know what success means to you for each of these areas of your life, you will find it difficult to compare yourself with other people’s success because they too have a different definition of what success means to them.
If you don’t define what success means to you, you will be forced to use others’ definition of success, which will lead you to discontentment and constant search for approval and lack of self-worth.
Defining your success would also mean knowing what’s meaningful in your life which includes your values, beliefs and principles.
To give you an example, I see a lot of my friends travelling always. They also have expensive, branded bags and shoes and signature clothing.
But I never compared myself to them, and I was never jealous. Because financially, my definition of success is seeing my bank account with lots of money and seeing my investment portfolio growth. So even though I don’t have branded bags and I can’t travel to Europe, I feel successful financially.
By knowing this, I free my mind and myself for comparison in that area of my life.
Give yourself time to do this, and I am sure that this will enable you to realise that success should be in your terms and it doesn’t have to be the success you see that other people have because most of the time, it will never be your definition.
- Study people’s pain
We always see other people win. We see their achievements. We see their awards. We see their medals. But have you studied their pain? Have you researched where did they come from, and what did they overcome to be in that position finally?
It’s easy to compare. But once you study people’s suffering, you’ll realise that each of us has our problems and trials in life. When you start studying people’s pain, you’ll also come from a place of appreciation and compassion.
- Focus on yourself and collaborate
My business coach once told me, I don’t look at what my competitor is doing. I focus on myself and on what I am doing every day.
When you always focus on what other people are doing, you forget your gift, you self-sabotage yourself and you are unable to harness your strength.
You then start making all these social comparisons only to check that you have been wasting 4 hours of your day.
Instead of checking at what they are doing, find collaborations instead. Look for competitors who share the same values and vision as you are and offer your services.
This way, you learn from them, and they too can benefit from your expertise. It’s a win-win situation.
Focus also on yourself and start reframing your mind by thinking of yourself as your own competition.
Beat your record every day as if you are beating your competitor. Then find joy because of the progress you have made.
- Start doing small things really well.
It doesn’t matter how small that task is but do it well. Mother Teresa once said, “Do small things with great love.”
Find time to help one people or offer your services and just do it really, really, really well. You’ll feel great about yourself. You’ll feel empowered. You’ll feel that you can actually make a difference in doing small things greatly for someone.
- Do something you’ve been putting off for so long and do it NOW.
Putting off tasks that you have yet to do decreases your self-confidence in yourself. It also gives you anxiety as you are always thinking about it.
Instead of procrastinating, just do that thing you’ve been putting off TODAY. Doing something and finishing what you said you do will not only give you self-confidence. It gives you that boost of self-worth and integrity within yourself.
When you finish something, it gives you that triumphant feeling. On the other hand, putting off something every day would just let you stay in an environment of failure as you have failed to do it.
So start finishing things. Be a finisher, and it will make you feel more responsible and more accomplished.
May these 6 tools help you overcome comparison and help you realised how great you are as a person.
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About the Author:
My name is Jennifer Letran. I am a Results and a Clarity Coach and my coaching system are based on Values and Authenticity. If you want to know more about my coaching style and how I am helping others in transforming their lives click here.