“Stop comparing your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.”
I’m not sure who first said that. Probably Shakespeare.
But I get it. I think you get it, too. By now, I think we’re all familiar with the negative aspects of comparing ourselves to others. We know that it makes us feel bad about even the good things in our lives, we know that it’s biased, we know that it doesn’t actually add anything of value or substance to our lives in the end.
And I know this from personal experience.
I have felt the pangs of jealousy when someone has a more successful launch than I do.
I have felt the guilt of imperfection when I see pictures of another woman’s perfectly-prepared dinner in a gorgeous kitchen (with backsplash tile, no less!).
I have felt the sting of insignificance when a popular online destination features a list of female entrepreneurs that doesn’t include me.
And it’s all because I was comparing. Comparing the reality of my life to one great, shining moment in someone else’s. How am I supposed to just “stop comparing”? It’s easier said than done.
But it’s not impossible.
These few, simple steps are the ones I’ve begun to take as I work through my tendency to compare. I hope they help you as you work to overcome comparison-itis, too.
Be Actively Aware
Often, when you’re comparing yourself to someone else, you’re not taking a good look at the whole picture. There are parts of the story—on both sides—that you’re leaving out. When you’re actively aware, however—of not only the fact that you’re engaging in comparison, but also of the nuances of both your life and the other person’s—then you’re better able to see the good and the bad that you both experience.
Here’s the thing—every single one of us is human, and every single one of us has or will run through the gamut of the human experience. We will all get the joy, the anger, the sadness, the forgiveness, the beauty, the pain, and so on. But all too often, when we’re comparing our lives to someone else’s, we focus only on our pain and their beauty … or our sadness and their joy. When we bring the full picture into our awareness—for instance, when we focus on what we do have to be joyful about in this moment, or when we recognize the pain that our neighbor has had to endure to get to the peace she feels now—the comparison doesn’t seem so unbalanced. It doesn’t seem so unfair.
When we take in the scope of the entire human experience, it’s impossible to compare. We all go through many of the same things, but in our own unique ways and at our own unique times.
The interesting thing about comparing our lives to someone else’s is that we’re rarely focused on the good—at least not the good in our own lives. But there’s always something good, isn’t there?
If you really did expand your awareness of your own life situation, you’d likely find something to be thankful for, and that’s so key—actually being thankful for it, and expressing that in some way. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, and especially what you don’t have as compared to some third party, why not consider everything you do have … and then just saying “Thank you”?
There’s a reason gratitude journals—or just the general practice of daily gratitude—has blown up in the past few years. It actually works. Scientific studies have shown that practicing gratitude daily can significantly increase your life satisfaction. And do you know what happens when you’re satisfied with your life? You’re a lot less likely to compare it negatively to someone else’s.
I don’t know that comparison will ever fully go away. At least, not for me. There will never be a day that I don’t scroll through my Instagram feed and think at least once, “Gah, if only I had her hair/house/success/body/fill-in-the-blank!” But, in those moments, I will choose to stop and say—what is it about what she has that I love so much? Am I just jealous or can I be inspired by this instead? Can I allow this to motivate me?
I encourage you to do the same. Flip the script on comparison-itis—instead of focusing on the negative (what she has that you don’t), find the positive (she’s been able to get that, so can I!) and allow it to inspire you. Allow that niggling feeling to show you where you want to change or up-level in your own life.
Of course, if you find yourself comparing your adorable two-bedroom cottage with someone else’s 10-bedroom mansion, you may not be able to find yourself in her shoes by tomorrow. But you’re not really trying to be in her exact shoes (or her mansion), are you? Allow yourself to see what it is about what she has that you truly want—is it a mansion or is it a home of your own that truly reflects you?
Instead of being jealous of what she has, be inspired. What has this moment of comparison shown you about what you want and need in your own life—and how can you start on the path toward achieving it?
* * *
I’ve personally seen comparison-itis pop up a lot in the world of business. And I’m certainly not immune to it. When I first started working for myself, I compared myself to every other entrepreneur, female, and product creator out there. I had no idea what made me unique and no clear way to articulate my specific value. That was before I took Marie Forleo’s B-School, though, where I learned exactly who I’m meant to serve and exactly why I am the best person to serve them. And I think that’s an important lesson whenever we find ourselves falling into the comparison trap—each of us serve a unique purpose, and when we can focus on what we already have and what we do best (instead of worrying about what everybody else is doing), we’re likely to find the most happiness and the most success. (Oh, and don’t worry—I’ll have more to share about B-School soon!)
We know comparison doesn’t get us anywhere. And now we have the opportunity to do something about it. Don’t beat yourself up about comparison-itis when it (inevitably) happens again—just prepare yourself with the tools to move through it, and allow it to add to your life instead of taking away.
And remember—if I were to compare my life to yours, I’d probably think you have a pretty great one. But now, I know I do too.
How do you handle comparison-itis in your own life?
Share your helpful tips in the comments; I would love to learn from you!
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