The Comparison Game
If there is one bad habit that nearly every human on this planet struggles with, it is the comparison game. Admit it. You have had a friend or acquaintance (and likely many more than one) who had a beautiful wedding, a high-powered career, a “perfect” little family, or ran a half-marathon in record time and you thought to yourself: “Wow, I must be a huge loser because I haven’t done that.”
Am I right?
For me, the comparison game started very young. One of my most vivid early memories from elementary school is doing that Presidential Physical Fitness test.
If you are a child of the ‘80s or early ‘90s, you know the one. That one hellish week out of the year where those of us who are less athletically inclined are “tested” and the presence or lack of flexibility, strength, endurance, or athleticism was put on display for all the other kids to see, and then ranked and awarded (or not).
The sit-ups, pull-ups, v-sit reach, mile run, etc. You know it.
For an intensely shy child (I wouldn’t let anyone other than family speak to me directly until around 6 years old) whose idea of physical activity was running to beat my sister to the last handful of marshmallows to snack on, let’s just say that I didn’t actually excel at this challenge. I would sit and watch the other kids doing pull-up after pull-up or gliding like gazelles around the soccer field during the mile run and pray that I would become invisible so that no one could see me embarrass myself. In third grade I actually faked a medical condition to my gym teacher to get out of having to do the mile run, and all the while I was saying to myself:
“Why can’t I do that? I am not good enough. I will never be athletic. All the cool girls win the President’s award. If I am not athletic I must be fat. The fat girls sit on the sidelines when everyone else has fun.”
And on and on and on and on… all the way through my adult years.
Not reaching the incredibly high standards I had set for myself or meeting society’s criteria in the perfect timeline (21 years old—graduate college; 24 years old—have an established career; 25-years-old—get married, etc. etc.) meant that every time I saw someone actually doing those things, it turned on my inner critic again.
And I know I am not alone in this.
So how do you get it to stop?
First of all, I know you have heard it before, but comparison is the thief of joy. You can be buzzing along feeling great about your summer diet and exercise and then hit the beach and see an 18-year-old model in a bikini and BAM! Bye-bye good vibes. So why are we letting other people steal our joy and our good feelings about ourselves? Here are some steps that I have found to keep me in check.
1) You are YOU. No amount of work in the gym, after hours in the office, or swiping right on Tinder is going to make you someone else. You journey, your DNA, your past, your purpose in life all make you unique! Even if you followed someone around for a week and copied everything they do, you still would not have their life. So not only is comparison toxic, it is actually completely insane.
2) The remedy for comparison is inspiration. Undoubtedly, when you feel jealous or the need to compare yourself with someone it is because there is something inside of you that wants to be recognized, set free, cultivated, or acknowledged for those same things. The greatness you admire in others is often a reflection of the greatness inside of you, but there are myriad reasons as to why you may not have accomplished it yet. So why not say: “me next”? Use that person’s achievement as inspiration along your path, and start setting goals and visualizing yourself achieving that thing that you are setting out to do (get detailed—the universe loves to help you attract and achieve things in great detail).
3) Don’t retreat. Comparison tends to isolate us from others. Our feelings of unworthiness make us feel more distant and unrelateable to other people… which is totally FALSE. So nip that shit in the bud by reaching out to the person who inspired you, TELL them specifically what inspires you about them and cultivate that relationship. Maybe they have some tips for you on how to achieve it. Maybe they admire something in YOU that you never thought of before. Maybe you could put your little genius heads together and come up with a collaborative project that would make total magic. You never know the possibilities. At the very least you are making someone else feel good, so there is no losing in that.
Implementing these steps is a daily process. If you do it once, it is not going to be a quick fix for eliminating all of the toxic comparison in your life. Personal development is like the gym. You have to be consistent and increase your efforts over time to continue to stretch your personal limits and grow that muscle. So give it a chance over the course of a month and watch your connections with others go deeper and your levels on inspiration just skyrocket!
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