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Comparison - The ultimate trickster.

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

Do you compare yourself to what other people do, at the detriment of your own confidence or happiness?

As the quote says Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Whilst a bit of healthy comparison or competition might be a positive driver and act as a motivator for achieving a goal. Comparison becomes more self-sabotaging when your “go to” outlook means you view your life with a significant gap or distance to colleagues, family members or even those in the public eye.

This can relate to a range of issues but could be simply categorized around comparison of achievements, possessions or personality traits.

A vortex of “you” and “them”.

Some common comparisons, by no way exclusive include:

  • Perceptions of career progression.

  • ·Seeing your skills set as lesser than others.

  • ·Body Image – feeling people are more attractive than yourself.

  • ·Benchmarking life events (such as “everyone is married” or “they all own their own house” or “I should be settled down by now”)

  • Or even a comparison of your “old” self vs who you are now.

  • You can be deeply impacted by the comparison you make ( of yourself) to others. This mindset becomes the “hot fuzz” of thoughts, leading to ruminating, over-thinking, worrying and feeling unhappy or insecure.

  • The persistence of comparison leads to lack of self-acceptance and impacts your sense of purpose and happiness over time. An emotional rollercoaster, as you struggle to find consistency in your own satisfaction.

If this is you, you may also relate to the wider narrative of Imposter Syndrome (which describes feeling inferior to others and fearing being caught out as fraudulent).

The fear is very real to you.

You find yourself increasingly out of your comfort zone, and may even procrastinate at tasks. Concerned your attempts will have a lesser outcome than your peers/colleagues. Better to avoid then to fail?

Some of the ways it may complicate your life include.

  • Dissatisfaction with things that previously bought you happiness.

  • Jealousy or Envy towards others.

  • Experience worry, stress and anxiety.

  • Negatively impacts relationships (friendships, relationships or team dynamics)

  • Withdrawing from opportunities.

  • Procrastination and avoidance.

  • Making choices based on someone else’s purpose in life.

  • Increased frustration at your own situation.

  • Over-thinking

  • Interrupted sleeping habits and restlessness.

You might also find that you struggle to receive praise, dismissing your abilities with a “yeh, but” response or scrutinizing the genuine nature of the compliment.

The issue with trying to be like someone else, is that you really are only your own person. We are all unique and learning that your purpose comes from a place much closer to home (within) helps remove the burden of expectation, that somehow you need to be more like someone else.

Your comparison complex may not have been totally your own doing. This might come from life experiences, parenting or peer groups that have influenced your beliefs.

The good news is, that there are ways you can reduce the self-judgment and find yourself the freedom to focus on your own experience of the world and appraise yourself from your subjective capabilities.

If you are wanting to reduce that comparison mindset and focus more on esteeming yourself. There are a couple of ways to begin exploring this.

Firstly, if your comparison has led you to experiencing anxiety or worry. It's valuable to focus on some strategies to manage as a priority. It is hard to be logical and self-focused when your brain is in a state of panic or concern.

Anxiety management comes in various forms from simply learning how to breathe into a place of relaxation or to therapeutic interventions that help you reset your reactions.

I also encourage the practice of re-frame. I often use a format, called 3 stories, to broaden perspectives. In this approach you take your belief or thought about a situation and frame it in three different ways. As a starting block I usually suggest one alternative, one ridiculous and one curious.

For example, if your comparison narrative is “ Jo is way better at speaking in meetings than me” Your three other “stories could be”

“Jo seems to really not care what he says out loud”

“Maybe Jo is an actual Alien or Wizard”

“ I wonder if Jo feels the same apprehension as me?”

When you practice your own re-frames notice how you feel when you explore each one. My favourite is often the “ridiculous” frame as it makes things feel less significant.

Another way to explore the comparison framework is to shift from Failure mindset to an asset-based way of thinking, this helps to notice what you have, rather than look at the comparison to others. Firstly, considering all the skills and qualities you bring to this situation. From here move to a learning perspective. Establish some tangible actions you could do to enhance your learning or wisdom on this issue.

These objectives work best if they are attainable in a short space of time, remember to make goals realistic and measured.

Moving to the learning zone can increase confidence and self-efficacy and this is likely to reduce your need to compare to others as much, feeling more satisfied in yourself.

Be aware of deceptive “mind math” language equations like X=Y for example Me = Not Good Enough or My skills set + My colleagues perceived skills = me as a failure. Or those crafty subtractions like Me speaking in public – that one time I got nervous = me being a rubbish public speaker.

Comparison really is a mischievous magician; it distorts your perspective. Deletes other people’s struggles and learning and casts a spell on your optimism. Keep an eye out for those thoughts and feelings in yourself and be courageous to nurture your thinking and move to a more esteemed place.

There are loads of ways that you can embrace change and learn new skills to upgrade outdated mindsets.

If you want to learn more, about how coaching can help you achieve this. Get in touch to explore a free 15 minute discovery call/zoom.

Picture Source: Jason dent, Unsplash

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