If you’re lacking contentment, could it be because you’re comparing yourself to others? Have you been on Facebook and seen the pictures of others living their seemingly exciting lives? It only takes a moment to find yourself wishing you had someone else’s career, body, house, or vacation.
There’s a critical flaw in this mental exercise. You simply don’t have all the information. Someone might have a great body, but they might be seriously ill. That great vacation might have been paid for with an inheritance after a family member passed away. This façade, this public image is all you will get to see of 99.9% of the world population. Think about it, how much of your struggle do you want to share with the rest of the world? It’s much easier to hide the struggle and only share the parts that will make everyone think your life is awesome.
Instead of comparing yourself to the public image of others compare yourself to your own recent past. Are you tracking your achievements and celebrating them? How is your figure compared to 6 months ago? How are your finances compared to last year? If you’re making progress, congratulate yourself. Most people aren’t doing nearly as well. They’ve weighed the same and had the same financial struggle for the last 20 years. If your life isn’t moving forward, then take pause and address the situation. This is the point where you take ownership of your life and your goals. If you’ve accomplished your last set of goals, write some new ones. The more time you spend focusing on your goals, the less time you have to focus on what someone else is doing.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Think about that statement and decide if it rings true for you.
Try these tips to free yourself from unnecessary comparisons:
- Catch yourself early in the process. As soon as you realize that you’re making comparisons to others, shift your focus to something else. Make a list of your recent accomplishments. Or, if you’ve been writing that list already, take a moment to review your list and decide how you’re going to celebrate those achievements. Taking back control is a matter of catching the thought and then redirecting it. It doesn’t matter how many times you catch yourself doing it. Redirect your thoughts each and every time. Eventually, this will become a habit for you.
- Remember that the journey is what matters. Everyone is on a journey to learn, create, and become something unique. It’s an individual experience that isn’t impacted by what others are doing or accomplishing. Your journey is yours, and yours alone. No one else can copy your life exactly, and you can’t copy someone else’s life exactly.
- Comparing yourself to others is a game that can’t be won. There are a lot of people in the world. Through sheer statistics, there will always be someone with a more attractive spouse, more money, a better car, or a more interesting life. There’s no way to compete with 7.7 billion people in every facet of life.
- Look to your strengths. This one was kind of an eye-opening realization for me. Comparisons tend to focus on our weaknesses. We usually compare our shortcomings against others. Embrace your strengths and be proud. Now use those strengths to your advantage. When you catch yourself playing the comparison game, you are likely focusing on areas you’re not strong in. Focus on your strengths and you are less likely to feel the need to compare yourself.
- List the things you have. Comparisons highlight the things we believe we are lacking. It’s much more productive to think about the things you do Your mood and frame of mind will be more positive, and you’ll be in a better position to take action and succeed. This is where a gratitude practice comes in. If you have a gratitude journal, take moment to add to it or simply read it. Reminding yourself of all the things you have to be grateful for is a wonderful way to shift your focus. If you don’t have a gratitude journal, you can just make a list of things you are grateful for. Now is a great time to start.
- People only let you see the things that want you to see. Sure, they’ll let you see their new BMW and the vacation pictures from Maui. But you’ll never see the tears and fights in the bedroom, or the verbal abuse they take from their co-workers. Everyone has a struggle. Just because someone isn’t currently, or publicly, experiencing a struggle doesn’t mean that their life is free of struggle. Keep in mind that social media is primarily used for showing the good, rather than telling the bad.
- It’s just a habit. Our lives are filled with habits, and some of them are harmful. Poor mental habits are restrictive. It’s like going through life with the emergency brake on. Labeling the tendency to compare as a habit has a powerful advantage because we know that habits can be broken.
Comparing yourself to others is detrimental to your mental health. It is limiting and self-defeating. No one can be expected to compare favorably to the vast number of people in the world. Make an effort to limit your comparisons. Focus on your goals and the actions needed to accomplish them. Are you making progress? If you continue to enhance the areas that are important to you, your life is likely to be fulfilling and exciting!