Scrolling through Instagram, I feel the sudden, involuntary gut-drop as I swipe down past the fancy décor, cute puppies and exotic locations: someone I know from college has announced his/her [insert success about something I always wanted to do]/have been trying to attain for the past [insert a time that shouldn’t be taking so long]. Let the comparing begin…
As if each read sentence of their good fortune was a bullet to my ego, my spirit collapses. My mind becomes consumed with just one, simple thought: I ain’t shit. Now I’m paralyzed. Paralyzed by this thought loop centered on how I peaked in life upon receiving my college acceptance letter some 7 years ago, and for the rest of my life the finite number of “Wins” handed out by the universe would be given to someone else but me, someone better than me. (The universe must be stingy that way). This line of thinking sinks me deeper into the pit of self-pity that comes with comparing yourself to others.
How many of you, like me, have lived far too great a portion of your lives comparing yourselves to others? (I’ll raise both hands for the ones too ashamed to admit it). Seriously, how many hours have I spent beating myself up for not having as brand name of an internship as my classmates, or not having as much professional charisma as my coworkers, or not having as big of a butt as my boyfriend’s ex?!
While I know this tendency to compare ourselves is as human as any other tendency, the budding grown-ass, confident, self-secure woman in me realizes this habit has no place in my evolution.
I recently read this awesome blog on comparing less and found myself mentally “Yaaasing” at every sentence, so here’s to you “Yaaasing” at my abbreviated version of those gems:
6 Reasons Why Comparison Sucks
- It’s unfair to compare the worst of what we know of ourselves to the best of what we perceive of others. This is especially true when comparing ourselves with others via social media profiles. Most of us are only representing a filtered, highlight reel of our lives on the ‘Gram anyways.
- It takes up precious time. In the time that could be spent finishing homework (or a blog post), comparison paralyzes us into wallowing in I-aint-shitness. Sounds like a waste of time to me.
- The habit of comparison doesn’t stop when we become more successful or “one-up” the subject(s) of our comparison. There’s an infinite amount of people to compare ourselves to, and an infinite number of dimensions we can compare ourselves against. This fact doesn’t change even when we feel we’ve reached the tippity top level in our imaginary ladder of success.
- It puts focus on the wrong person. Our focus should be on the one life we can control – our own.
- It leads to resentment. We begin to harbor jealousy over others and the feeling of inadequacy within our selves.
- It kills our joy. Point. Blank. Period.
The simple truth is that the habit of comparison has no place in my mental well-being. My confidence, my time, my relationships, and my sanity are at stake. I’m at the point where I have to take control.
The question is: How can I (we) break free from this habit of comparison? In other words, to riff off the great Mary. J. Blige, how can we stop the hateration in the dancery of our minds? Here’s a start:
What to do instead of comparing yourself to others
1. Be mindful of the negative effects comparison has on your life.
I wrote a post on how I got the courage to speak up to my boss about our work dynamic and credited my “bravery” to my realization that I don’t like living like dis no mo’. Similarly, if you tune into the harmful effects comparing yourself has on your life, you’ll want to find an “out,” too. Resentment towards others, the inability to focus on one’s own goals, and altogether depressive feelings come with the package of comparing yourself to others. Once you realize this, you probably won’t want to wade in the BS no mo’. You’ll want to make it a priority to get your mind right. (That’s where I am).
2. Become intimately aware of your own successes and gifts.
We honestly all have unique gifts and experiences. Single mothers, 1st year grad students, party promoters, doctors and bloggers, we all have the proverbial “juice” to love, serve, and contribute in some capacity in our little sections of the world. When you catch yourself putting yourself down or comparing yourself to others, reflect on your own “juice” – your heart, gifts and unique experiences – and focus on those for a while.
On my best days, here’s what my inner dialogue sounds like: “Ro, your boobs may not be as big as those Instagram models, but those listening skills, though? But those gorgeous, mysterious brown eyes, though? But how you take care of your dog, and how you worked for your Penn degree, though? Girl, you kinda fly!”
Take a shot at being your own cheerleader. How much more valuable would it if we were to really lean in to our own unique gifts and pursue developing those gifts in earnest.
3. Realize no one’s perfect
The point here isn’t to focus on the negative in others. Doing so would only be detracting from their successes to bolster our own self-esteems. (And we’re trying to stop the hateration in the dancery of our minds, remember)?
The point is to acknowledge that what we get to see via an “I got the job offer” status or “I said yes” post is the fruit of labor, failures, and overcome obstacles. All the “good stuff” doesn’t just “happen” to these “perfect” people we make the subject of our comparisons. There is/was pain and strife we may never learn about. Once we realize that imperfection is a trait of being human, we can cut ourselves some slack.
4. Get inspired.
Learn the difference between comparison and inspiration. Comparison assumes we know all there is to know from others – every which way we think they’re better than us – but inspiration is eager to learn. Ask questions. Read biographies. You’ll realize no one’s perfect, but moreover, you’ll learn how others have overcome similar challenges as you may be facing. Get you some major keys.
5. Give thanks.
Being thankful forces us to acknowledge the good things we already have. No we may not have _____ like _____ does (and trust, there’ll always be something and someone to fill in the blanks), but we have so much else. Most importantly, we’ve got life. And with that comes the chance to make today better than yesterday, at least within ourselves.
Without a doubt I know everyday won’t find me in perfect execution of these tips myself, but that’s OK! I’m trying and I’m growing, y’all!
Before you go, subscribe to receive updates on new blog posts!