We’ve all heard the saying “comparison is the thief of joy” and I’m sure you’ve experienced this and know it to be true.
We compare our bodies, our homes, our things, our parenting style, our achievements, our talents… Nothing is really off the table and no-one is immune from it.
I see it ALL the time in my kids as well. They’re often so preoccupied with whether they’re receiving the exact same as their brothers that they can’t appreciate what they already have. It drives me nuts!
But if we know comparison is robbing us of joy, why do we keep doing it?
Well, probably because it is so deeply ingrained in human nature to assess our well-being in relation to others. It’s how we navigate our social world and adapt to changing circumstances. (It might also have a deeper evolutionary origin – look up the 2003 monkey study by Brosnan & de Waal if you’re curious!)
So if it’s part of human nature, what can we do about it?
What I remember when I find myself in a comparison trap:
Self awareness is key.
We can get so caught up in the emotion that comes with comparison, that we forget what’s triggered it in the first place.
The thing is, comparison doesn’t affect us all in the same way.
- For some of u sit can fuel perfectionism, causing us to shift the goal posts once again so that they’re always just out of reach and we can never actually reach them.
- For others, it fuels jealousy and envy, making us feel mad that the other person has something that we don’t (even though we think we deserve it)
- And for others, comparison just amplifies the inner critic voice, causing us to beat ourselves up for not being good enough. (FYI, your brain doesn’t recognise the difference between self criticism and criticism from others – they both feel equally crap)
Get some perspective
When we find ourselves stuck in a comparison trap feeling awful, it is almost always as a result of upward comparison – comparing ourselves with someone we perceive to be better than us. But what about downward comparison? Remembering that others don’t have / haven’t achieved what we have can give us some much-needed perspective. Even comparing ourselves to a previous version of ourselves can be helpful in recognising how far we’ve come in our own personal journey.
My definition of success
This is really important so I want you to read it twice:
If you don’t define what success means to you, you’ll be forced to use the definition of others.
We often get distracted by other people’s achievements. But do you ever question whether the thing you’re comparing is actually something you want? If you’ve never actually sat down and thought about what success means to you or what the best possible version of you looks like, then you really should! Take a big picture view, and define what it means to you in all the ways – physically, spiritually, financially, emotinoally, mentally.
If you haven’t downloaded my ‘Best life snapshot’ resource before, ask me for it! I’m happy to share it and it’s a great place to start.
My unique strengths
We have all come to this world with different gifts to share. We simply can’t be the best at everything. If we don’t know our own unique strengths, then we can get caught in a trap of comparing our weaknesses to someone else’s strengths. And that’s just not a fair fight!
What can I learn?
As I pull myself out of the depths of a comparison rabbit hole, I often like to think about what lesson might have been there for me to learn.
Maybe the thing I’m comparing is more important to me that I realised?
Or it might have brought my attention to an area of my life that I’d like to give more focus?