1. You are your harshest critic.
When you compare someone’s accomplishments to your own, you are forgetting an important piece of the puzzle – the full story. It’s easy to announce the successes and post cute pictures on Instagram. However, no one wants to talk about the social pitfalls, emotional breakdowns or embarrassing tumbles that occurred prior to that oh-so perfect moment. Nor does anyone want to highlight the unexciting hours of that day, the hours we wasted sitting around or crying on the phone to our moms. When you listen to a colleague gush at a dinner party, you’re only getting the peaks – never the valleys. It’s easy to forget this simple fact, as we compare our entire unedited lives (full of bloopers and messy transitions) to our friend’s final cut (complete with pretty colors, enthusiastic narration and a clean dénouement.) Remember that you will always be your harshest critic.
The next time you catch yourself in the comparison hole, I challenge you to try this mental trick. What if the person experiencing your current life situation wasn’t you but rather your friend? What would you think of that person? And what advice would you give him or her? How would you raise their spirits? I guarantee you’ll see just how exponentially harder you are on yourself over anyone else. You deserve that same respect and encouragement, if not more. Whatever terrible opinions you create of yourself during an act of comparison, I promise they’re utter exaggerations.
2. No two people are the same.
The phrase “you’re comparing apples to oranges” is used when someone is pinning two things against each other that are fundamentally different and therefore unsuitable for comparison. That’s exactly what you’re doing when you compare yourself to others; you’re comparing apples to oranges. In other words, no two people are the same. No two people have the same combination of genes, talents, upbringings, social circles, thoughts, etc. Metaphorically speaking, everyone’s life story is a separate book. And the best part? Your book is just as exciting, worthy and incredible as anyone else’s is! Unfortunately, many miss out on their grand memoirs when they forget this truth. When we try to copy the lives of others, doing what we think we should be doing, our stories lose their unique qualities. We start to look like a knock-off series.
The only person you should compare your current self to is the past you. Because that’s a fair comparison; that’s comparing apples to apples. If you can confidently say you are a better person today than you were one year ago (in intelligence, career, health, relationships, skills and/or maturity) than that is growth worth celebrating. Your story is on its way to being an original bestseller.
3. Comparison patterns are opportunities.
As I mentioned above, comparison can suck energy and time away from your own unique story. But what if you see a pattern emerging? What if you can’t stop comparing yourself to one person or type of person. This isn’t a curse, this is a blessing. Life coaches Rachel East and Kristen Walker of ClarityonFire.com once published a blog post on the benefits of jealousy (check their website out, it’s an amazing resource for career advice). They ask: Although it’s easy to become bogged down by the negative thoughts that occur during comparison, what if we saw those moments of involuntary comparison, flares of envy and self-loathing, as giant arrows pointing to what we care about most? Rather than direct all our energy onto the people we idolize, let’s use the opportunity to investigate what this unceasing envy says about us. What is it about these people, their skills or experiences, that we keep wishing we had? What do we continuously admire about them? And more importantly, what can we do to obtain similar results?
4. Perfection does not exist.
It’s true, as much we may like to brush off cliches. Regardless of your successes, there will always be someone in front of you: someone smarter, someone more experienced, someone prettier. You’re guaranteed to tire yourself out before you ever reach ultimate perfection, so don’t put that pressure on yourself. Of course, also remember that there will also always be people behind you. Or right next to you. Hierarchy is subjective and fluid. No one ever leads for long and superiority often lies in the eye of the beholder. View the world as a community, full of colleagues and mentors you can always grow with and learn from. We are, and always will be, imperfect equals.
Comparison is a part of life! But that doesn’t mean we have to live at its mercy. Although negative self-talk can be burdening, practice utilizing comparison as an opportunity to grow, celebrate and learn more about yourself. Your story is an incredible, worthwhile one and you wouldn’t be alive today if the universe didn’t want you to write it.
This article is written by Delancey Prince.