Comparing yourself to others is easy to do. It seems that human beings are somehow hardwired to look at their own lives and then look at the lives of others, and start comparing and contrasting the two. That doesn’t mean this is a healthy process.
Do you ever catch yourself making one or more of these kind of statements:
“I wish I had her hair. She always looks fabulous.”
“I wish I had a big expensive house like he/she does.”
“My car is a real clunker. When I drive down the street, all the other autos are nicer than mine.”
“They are always smiling and happy. I wish I had that life.”
“If only I could be like that…”
We do it all the time, don’t we? We compare ourselves to others. It seems to be some type of built-in self-punishment tool that we whip ourselves with over and over. In a way, this is a part of the survival instinct every human being is born with.
Back when your cave-dwelling ancestors were ecstatic if they had anything to eat every couple of days, food was very important. Imagine that there were a couple of friendly Paleolithic tribes located right next to each other, but only one of the tribes had excellent hunters. It seemed they were always eating brontosaurus burgers and saber-toothed tiger ribs while the second tribe was lucky to eat at all.
If this situation continued for any serious amount of time, the first tribe would thrive, reproduce, and grow, while the second would probably fade into oblivion. So it would make sense for the hungry tribe to compare itself to its neighbors. When the hungry cavemen saw that the other tribe was so good at hunting, that might make the tribesmen in the starving group work harder at their hunting skills. They may go next door to their well-eating neighbors and ask for some tips about hunting. Their survival instinct warned that if they did not get better at hunting, they would not continue to be around very long. So it would be productive for them to compare their poor abilities to the considerably better talents of their neighbors in order to improve on necessary life skills.
Today we don’t need to do this.
Comparing ourselves to others no longer presents a live-or-die set of results in most cases. Despite some scary statistics which we’ll talk about later, most people have a roof over their heads, food to eat, water to drink, and the ability to regulate the temperature in their homes. Because of this, humans have started comparing themselves to others in ways that don’t really matter.
You might wish you were taller like your friend, or hate that you can seemingly never lose weight while someone else you know can eat just about anything and still always look slim and trim. You might compare your car, your home, your bank account, or even members of your own family to those of others.
This is never a good idea, because it can create frustration, low self-esteem, or conversely, settling for less than your full potential because of something you might have more of than others.
So stop worrying about your neighbor, the wealthy Internet guru you saw online, or the gorgeous celebrity who seems to have it all. Truth be told, those people would also be jealous of you in many ways, and it makes no sense to compare yourself to them. Creating a sense of the true value and worth of your life, as opposed to trying to keep up with the Joneses, begins with practicing gratitude for what you do have rather than focusing on what you don’t.
Appreciating What You Have
It’s okay to want more than you currently have. This is how human beings drive themselves. When you practice gratitude and are thankful for your blessings, this doesn’t mean you should stop working to be the best “you” that you can possibly be. If the greatest engineers, scientists, doctors, professors, and geniuses of the day all stopped working because they were happy to be smarter than most, we might still be living in the electricity-free caves of our ancestors. There is a purpose in you being you that has some importance to be fulfilled.
Practicing gratitude simply means acknowledging the good things in your life right now while you go through the natural processes of growth and development.
You can’t control the future. While it’s good to plan ahead and make preparations that increase the chances of your life going the direction you want it to, in reality you don’t even have complete control over tomorrow, much less several years from now.
You also can’t control the past. It is what it is. The past is gone, and the future is not yet here. Literally, the only thing that makes up your existence as far as time is concerned is the present moment.
Instead of living to chase some achievement, embrace your “now.” Research tells us that those people who are fully aware of their present moment live longer than men and women who are plowing through life worried about tomorrow. This is in part because when you are fully aware of this present moment, you automatically become more appreciative. A mindful awareness of right now means that you see, hear, and experience what is going on around you this instant – not yesterday, not tomorrow, not one hour from now. All of your senses are attuned to your current existence, and you feel more of life as it happens rather than just reliving it as memories.
This makes it easy to see the blessings that you have. Instead of thinking, “I can’t wait for that big Christmas bonus,” which might bring stress and disappointment if it doesn’t materialize, you can enjoy the course of your workday feeling grateful and fulfilled in simply having a job.
Those that are mindfully aware of the present moment have shown dramatically lower stress levels than people caught up in the rat race.
Be aware of your breath right now. Aware of where you are sitting or standing, how you feel, and what your five senses are experiencing right now. When you focus on the present moment, you become instantly grateful for existing, in whatever current state you inhabit.
Here are a few ways to express gratitude in your life. Make an effort to practice them frequently and stop comparing yourself to others, and you will find acceptance and growth as well as less stress and more peace with who you are.
♡ Take a moment right now and look around you. What are you grateful for? You no doubt will see several things that you should be thankful for, both big and small.
♡ Say “Thank you” for each new challenge you receive, because these give you a chance to be the best you can possibly be.
♡ Be thankful for your mistakes, because they mean another milestone has been passed toward what you’re trying to achieve.
♡ Don’t forget to be thankful for the small things. Your shoes may be old and worn, but they’re still better than no shoes at all.
♡ Hug the difficult times in your life. These create opportunities for incredible growth and understanding.
♡ Remember there will always be someone who has more than you. Be grateful that person exists as a lesson to you of what is possible.
♡ Practice gratitude for your limitations, because with practice they can become skills.
♡ Spend a few minutes in nature every day. You won’t be able to help being amazed and grateful for the experience.
♡ Call a good friend and give them a heartfelt and meaningful thank you. This simple act practiced daily can impact your life positively in so many ways.
Remember, anyone can be thankful for the good things in life, but I would also encourage you to go further and begin embracing what first may appear as challenges and failures and be grateful for the opportunity to experience and learn from them. That doesn’t mean you have to like all that’s happened, but rather salvaging what good you can to further your growth and future outcomes.
Gratitude Is a Simple Way to Boost Your Self-Esteem
Think back to the happiest times of your life. You probably had a very positive self-image. Life was good, and you unconsciously believed that you deserved the goodness in your life. The relationship works the other way around as well. If you want to improve your life, improve your self-image. Being grateful and thankful for all of the blessings you have makes you feel good about yourself.
When you realize that there are so many reasons to be grateful, your self-esteem becomes elevated. When you feel good about yourself and happy with who you are, you will find that this attitude also raises how you view your own life and the world around you. Expressing gratitude regularly boosts your self-esteem, which in turn improves your quality of living.
One way to ensure that you constantly practice the gratitude tips just listed is to keep a thankfulness journal. A study carried out in 2003 showed that the research subjects that kept a gratitude journal dramatically enhanced their lives both mentally and physically in many ways. The men and women who kept a journal and daily used it to record lessons of gratitude…
“… exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic. It also showed that people who kept the journal were more likely to make progress towards their goals. Overall, there was a greater sense of feeling connected to others, a more optimistic view towards life, and better sleep quality.”
The findings are the same in any number of similar experiments on gratitude. It is easy to tell yourself you will be more thankful each day. Life gets busy though. You may not remember to be grateful for each and every experience throughout the day. When you keep a gratitude journal and record your thoughts in the morning, at midday, and at night before you go to bed, you can see a wealth of things you are grateful for in just a few days.
Setting Yourself Up for Gratitude
This is a really simple way to instantly become grateful for who you are, rather than comparing yourself to others. You can consciously plan experiences ahead of time that you know you will be grateful for. For instance, if you absolutely love reading and are grateful for the ability to read and the experience it gives you, plan for some reading time every day. Scheduling yourself to reading something from your favorite author for an hour before bed each night sets you up for a daily dose of gratitude and happiness. You could also…
♡ Compliment your friends and family members on something they are good at. This makes you grateful for having that person in your life.
♡ Draw up a realistic budget and stick to it. When you begin to see yourself saving money when you had not been before, you will be thankful you decided to budget your finances.
♡ Schedule quality time with your children doing something they enjoy. There is nothing to be more grateful for than the smile of a child.
♡ Embrace the items on your to-do list that you used to despise. Every completion of a task or activity that you don’t really enjoy is an accomplishment that moves you closer to your goals.
♡ Volunteer time with the elderly and infirm. They will be ever grateful for your help, and you will become grateful for your own health and independence.
Sometimes we look to others to “rank” ourselves, and in many ways this gives us a wake-up call that reminds us we are truly blessed in many ways. For instance, did you know…
783 million people worldwide (1 in every 9) don’t have access to clean and safe water. (TheWaterProject.org)
Half of the people in the world live on less than $2.50 a day. 8 out of 10 live on less than $10 a day. (GlobalIssues.org)
795 million people don’t have enough to eat. (WorldHunger.org)
As of 2010, 1.2 billion people were living without electricity. (WorldBank.org)
The last time a global homelessness survey was attempted (2005), approximately 100 million people were homeless worldwide, and as many as 1.6 billion (1 in every 4) lacked adequate housing. (UNFoundation.org)
It is those types of statistics that can make you pause and realize just how good you have it. When you see that you are probably better off than most people on the planet, what does it matter if you’re not comparatively better than others in the relatively limited subset of other well-off people you know. Wouldn’t it be better to focus on how what you do have to offer can benefit others who are not at your level than to judge your worth by what you don’t have?
Why It Doesn’t Make Sense to Compare Yourself to Others
You would probably agree that it doesn’t make much sense to compare a rock to a zebra. How can you compare those two things? They are so totally different that comparison is just silly. The rock is better at being a rock, and the zebra is better at being a zebra. To compare and contrast one to the other does nothing but waste your valuable time.
The same is true with you and anyone else.
As we just covered, it can make a lot of sense to be grateful for having a roof over your head, access to safe drinking water, and food in your belly. Those essentials of life aren’t guaranteed to everyone, so when you realize how many people still struggle in those areas, your comparison to your own life situation can make you incredibly grateful. But beyond that, a lot of people go further than they should in comparing themselves to others in ways that don’t make any sense.
Men compare their balding hairlines to friends that have a lot of hair. Women see a friends’ new pair of shoes and wish they could afford the same. Some people even compare their children to the children of other parents. This is a fruitless practice because what does it accomplish really?
Let’s say your best friend has a child that goes to school with yours. They are the same age, the same gender, the same physical size, and may eve look a little alike. But your friend’s child makes straight A’s, is on the chess team, the debate team, and pep club, and plays three sports. Meanwhile, your child is physically uncoordinated, works very hard but struggles to get good grades, and has no interest in after-school activities.
Comparison here can only hurt your child. Instead of embracing and loving the characteristics that make your child unique, you might stifle development, damage self-esteem, and ruin your relationship when you compare them to someone else. Give your children the best resources and opportunities to become good people and successful individuals, and don’t play the comparison game that no one ever wins.
The same is true when you compare yourself to others. You may as well be comparing the rock to the zebra because you are so unique that looking at your life and existence in regards to someone else offers no room for comparison.
Taking Control of Your Own Goals
When you think about it, you really only control your own actions. This means you should set your own goals, and they shouldn’t be based on the achievements of others. Think about the things you want in different areas of your life. Write down a very specific target instead of a vague one, and then break it up into what actions need to take place on a daily and weekly basis to make meaningful progress. At regular intervals, record what happens.
No matter what your goal is and in what area of life, you must track your progress. This allows you to compare yourself against yourself. You can then see whether you’re headed in the right direction or not to adjust your game plan accordingly to get back on track to creating the reality you want to achieve. This allows you to compare yourself with just yourself and no one else, and you’ll find it produces much better results and satisfaction in your life than comparing yourself to others.
Changing Your Thought Patterns to Stop Comparing
One particularly effective way to get yourself to stop playing the comparison game is to develop new thought patterns. This may be difficult to do, especially if you’re constantly beginning each of your thoughts with “I wish…”, “If only…”, and “If I were just like…”. The following practices can help you stop thinking these damaging and limiting thoughts.
Remind Yourself That No One Wins the Comparison Game
You might look at a person and realize they are better at something than you are, or maybe they have more of something that you desire than you have. This doesn’t make them better than you or you worse than them. But when you start comparing yourself to that person, you might start to resent or feel threatened by that individual because they have outperformed you in some way. You also might begin to resent yourself, beating yourself up for not being “good enough.” No one wins in that type of game.
Start Being Kinder Towards Others
There is a lot of research that shows how you think about yourself is often mirrored in how you think about others. This is true with behavior as well. Those that treat themselves positively also do the same to other people, even strangers. Seemingly random acts of kindness that help others can change your thought patterns away from pointless comparison and toward self-realization.
Conversely, angry and unkind people are often that way because they see the world as mistreating them. The world has been unfair, and they have this belief because they have been comparing themselves to others and finding themselves lacking. So they reach out negatively instead of positively and will always find some comparison to back up their erroneous belief that they deserve to look down on themselves and others.
Don’t be this person.
Start smiling more, even if you have to work at it. Help your co-workers. Open your eyes to opportunities to assist others throughout the day. You will find that your attitude towards others will impact the way you think about yourself. When you see others as deserving assistance and kindness and love, you will come to view yourself as deserving as well. This will help you begin to appreciate the person you are rather than desiring to be someone else.
Compare You to You
There is only one person on the planet you should compare yourself to … you!
Look at how much you have grown in so many ways. Look at the areas of opportunity where you still need to grow. Be honest with yourself – you know what you are capable of. Don’t settle for anything less than that. When you succeed, pat yourself on the back. When you fail, recognize that failure is just an event, not who you are.
When you begin to honestly compare yourself to you and no one else, you may start to get excited. You see how truly far you have come as a person, and then you can imagine this continued growth in the future. Thinking about all your accomplishments can help you develop an appreciation and love towards yourself that no one can defeat. And when you feel good about yourself, you don’t need to play the comparison game.
Avoid Judging or Criticizing Others or Seeing Them as Competition
You are your own unique person. No one else has your specific skills, brain, body, thoughts, and abilities. Truly no one on the planet is just like you. This being the case, it doesn’t make sense to compare yourself to any other individual.
If you are extremely talented in a certain way, you might have a skill or skills that many others don’t. If you’re only taking your cues from what others are doing, you might start drastically underachieving and not put your skills to good use since you see that even a weak attempt on your part ranks you ahead of others in that particular area. You might start working only hard enough to get by, never harnessing or reaping the full benefits of all your abilities.
This happens a lot when you judge and criticize others.
It’s often a by-product of viewing others as competition, since in a competition the only goal is being better than your opponent. The easiest way to compare two people in a contest is to call one a winner and the other a loser. So by critiquing and criticizing others, even if you believe you’re doing it in a positive way, you are unconsciously competing with those people. And when you are only judging winners and losers, if you wind up on the short end of the stick yourself then this can lead to frustration, regret, low self-esteem, and other negative comparison results.
When you judge others, you are really judging yourself.
Chances are if you find yourself criticizing someone, you probably have some personal issues in that area yourself. Instead of elevating that person or yourself, it can be more tempting to knock them down because it takes a lot less effort to knock things down than to cultivate the more positive changes we would really rather see. When a person judges everyone else around them as being beneath their level, they risk developing a mindset that they don’t need to make any further investments in their own development unless other people change first. And some might go even farther and sabotage others’ efforts to make their own positive changes in order to maintain their comfortable level of perceived superiority.
There are many people out there who would rather bring someone down or keep someone down rather than help that other person or themselves reach higher heights. Criticism and judgement often become tools to avoid having to make an effort. Don’t fall into the trap of either becoming like this yourself or trying to win the approval of someone else doing this to you. Your real value is not dependent on anyone else’s assessment of it.
Be Especially Careful Online
The Internet makes being fake possible and pretty easily. Anyone can join a social media site and create a dream reality out of thin air. You need to remember that no one is as perfect as they seem, especially online.
No one is perfect, including celebrities and models whose pictures and postings are often Photoshopped and strategically edited before going public. Online, everyone has their best foot forward, and when you meet someone there, they can tell you absolutely anything they want, true or false. You have no way of understanding whether you’re being lied to, and even where there’s no lying or ill intent at all, you still aren’t likely to get a balanced perspective because it’s only natural for even the best-hearted people to be more inclined to freely share the good than the bad. So when you meet people online, you definitely should not play the comparison game.
You can certainly still enjoy meaningful relationships there, and there are many genuinely good people whose main source of social interaction is online due to disability or other life circumstances that limit their mobility in their geographic communities, but you need to keep yourself reminded that virtual reality is still limited in its representational abilities so you’re much better off focusing on just enjoying your relationships there without letting them define you.
Learn to Be Okay with Imperfection
There is no such thing as perfection in the human condition. We are all imperfect, you and I and everyone else. It’s still okay to keep striving for greater mastery of things that are important to us because that keeps us challenged and continually growing. But don’t push yourself so hard or so rigidly that you ignore the present moment.
Be mindfully aware of who you are and what you have right now, and experience your enjoyment in it. You are the only person like you that has ever existed or will ever exist. Take some time to let that sink in, and realize what a disservice it would be to compare the uniqueness of yourself to others when there’s no comparison possible.
Stop comparing your life, and start living it. After all, it is yours and no one else’s. Who will accomplish the dreams you have with the talents you have if you don’t?