"Always remember that you are absolutely unique, just like everyone else." - Margaret Mead
One of the most remarkable revelations I've ever received, was discovering just how useless comparing myself to others is. Unfortunately, I struggled with this misconception for more years that I care to admit.
It started around high school when I slowly began unjustly judging myself on a great number of things. Whether it was my athletic prowess in gym class, my popularity among the student body, or my academic performance, I would regularly measure myself against the talent, charisma, and intellect of others.
This tendency lamentably lingered on into my young adulthood, where I put away my childish judgement ruler and began scrutinizing my strengths and weaknesses using a much bigger, more adult yardstick.
I graduated to comparing job titles, income, vehicle make and models, and other worldly possessions as my perceived basic standards of success.
Too Hard on Yourself
"Comparison is the thief of joy." - Franklin Roosevelt
My tendency to compare may have worked in my favor had I used it as a motivational tool for personal growth. Instead it became a source of pain because I took the strengths of others and compared them to my weaknesses, so it seemed to me as if I was failing.
This sort of self-criticism obviously doesn't feel good!
Self-judgement is often at the root of our pain. We judge ourselves harshly, we judge our past, present, and future experiences, and we even judge our feelings.
From my limited and shortsighted perspective, everyone seemed to be doing better than me, as I hadn’t yet learned how to:
Create my own standards for success
Choose my own path of fulfillment
Set goals that were authentic and not superficial
As a result, I felt as if I were constantly marinating in a stew of disappointment, frustration, discouragement, anger, and anxiety.
The Consequence is Low Self-Confidence
"Don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle or your middle to someone else's end." - Tim Hiller
When we compare ourselves, our self-esteem takes a major hit - This could cause us to stop pursuing our goals and dreams before we even really get going.
For example, when I first began writing picture books, I would often compare myself to other authors. However, I made the mistake of measuring my efforts against writers who had been in the game for years - writers who had paid their dues behind the scenes and were justifiability being rewarded the fruits of their labor. They were experiencing a level of success that took them sometimes years to gain, yet I wished to be decorated with those same accolades right out of the gate.
Was it fair to compare my beginning effort to someone else's middle effort?
Instead, of comparing, I learned to focus on my strengths - writing honest, substantive stories that have meaning for me; knowing that with some effort and patience, I would manifest what success looked like for me!
You Do You, I'll Do Me
"Be yourself, everyone else is already taken." - Oscar Wilde
It's so cool that we have the ability to acknowledge the fact that so many people have a variety of talents - and when those people let their talent shine, we can all benefit from that. However, we should try spending a little more time focusing on our own talents and strengths instead of the strengths of others. We will be of greater service to ourselves and those whose lives we touch by developing a true awareness of our own value and self-worth.
How do we go about learning what our value is? Here's a link to The Seven Signs You Know Your Value.
"To love is to stop comparing." - Bernard Grasset
So how do we stop squandering our happiness and get out of the comparison trap?
Be aware. We've been comparing ourselves to others for so long that it has become a bad habit. Like other bad habits, we must first admit that we have a problem to become more conscious. Becoming aware of the thoughts that are going through our minds helps us to identify who or what triggers our envious thoughts. Be mindful of the fact that these thoughts add no value to our lives and STOP!
Pause. Remember that these are real emotions that may show up every day, or even moment to moment. Putting them in their proper place will take time and practice. Don't beat yourself up! Acknowledge the thought and then shift focus.
Be grateful. Shift your focus back to yourself and what you’ve already been blessed with. Count what you have and look forward to the things you plan to gain by focusing on following your unique path.
Have hope. To compare as a source of motivation is one thing, but to "covet" is not cool! Do you admire these people, or do you want what they have? Let's be real, you will never have exactly what they have. It may look similar, but it will always be different. Embrace that fact. You can use people as motivation because they inspire you, but when you just want their "stuff" then you've entered into unhealthy territory.
The only person you should be better than, is who you were yesterday.
Remember that they are just people too, and if they can do great things, so can you.
Don't fall for the okey-doke by allowing other people's successes to make you feel a sense of lack. Flip the script and use comparisons as motivation to become a better person so that maybe you can use that energy to increase the joy in your own little corner of the world.