THE CYCLE OF COMPARISON
It is a common inclination to compare ourselves to others. Sometimes the comparison game gives us the push we need to strive harder, but often it makes us feel like we are lacking. If we see someone driving a better car, we want an upgrade. We feel shame about our smaller home if our friends have a bigger house. If we see kids sitting in a restaurant calmly listening to their parents, we wonder why our kids don’t behave that way.
It is a never-ending-hamster wheel of wanting, envying, and seeking. The more we compare, the more we want, and the more we feel shame. It seems that no matter how hard we try, what we have is never enough to satiate us. There is always someone who has done it better, gotten more, and seems to have it all together. We fall short at every turn, and it isn’t a good feeling.
THE DANGER OF COMPARING OURSELVES TO OTHERS
Insecurity is something I struggled with for most of my life. As an adult, it is a daily struggle. It is easy for me to feel like crap when I look around at the women who have 3,000 Facebook friends, put up endless photos of get-togethers with their girlfriend, and take exotic family trips. As a child I believed I wasn’t good enough, and that narrative repeats its vicious cycle when I fall into the trap of comparing myself to others.
I know that many of us struggle with feeling that no matter how hard we try, it just isn’t enough. We envy the seamlessness of other people’s lives, and wonder why we can’t have it all together. We feel like failures. I feel like a failure.
The truth is, we are all losers once we enter the comparison race. The bigger, better mentality sets each of us up for failure every time.
Firstly, there is always someone who is better at what you doing, who looks better in those pair of jeans, or whose hair never gets frizzy no matter what the weather. With the number of people on the planet, it doesn’t take that much looking around to find someone who will have what you want, will do it better than you, and will look better while doing it.
Secondly, most of what we see in life is the ultimate optical illusion. The smiling faces on Instagram, those women who step out of the car looking like they are ready to pose for a magazine, the people who seem to float through life on a cloud of ease…. things are not always as they seem. What if that woman suffers from body issues? Is it possible that the person who seems to have it all together goes home and cries every night? Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors, so what you are seeing is simply what others choose to let you see. Sometimes the grass looks greener on the other side because it isn’t real grass.
I am proof of that optical illusion. I know that people assumed I was a happy kid who got good grades and seemed to have my head on straight. They had no idea I was getting abused and cried myself to sleep most nights. Others didn’t know that I have a terrible memory and had to write down every detail on flash cards and spend endless days and nights studying to get my good grades. They didn’t know that behind that smile was a huge void of despair and anxiety.
Comparing ourselves to others is something we all struggle with, but if we think about it, it’s a waste of time and energy. At the end of the day, it will always make us feel badly about ourselves. What happens as a result? We feel inferior to others and try to figure out a way to feel like we’re good enough.
Ever wonder why there is so much mom shaming? Why kids bully other kids? Why people insult one another? Is it because we are all such terrible people? Sure, there are some rotten apples; however, a big root of the problem is that people lash out and make others feel badly about themselves in a desperate attempt to feel better about themselves. There is a reason why envy is one of the deadly sins. It is an epidemic, and it seems to only be getting worse.
HOW TO STOP COMPARING OURSELVES
What is the alternative? Stop comparing yourself to others. Instead, compare yourself…to yourself.
Unlike comparing ourselves to others, trying to be the best versions of ourselves is healthy and productive. Instead of being paralyzed with shame and envy about a contest we can never win, we can try to make our own grass greener.
The only power we have in this world is over ourselves and our lives. Instead of focusing on others, we can wake up each day willing to learn and grow. Striving to be the best versions of ourselves doesn’t mean striving for perfection. It means understanding that we have faults and fears and insecurities and weaknesses, but we can give ourselves a gentle nudge to work on our own issues and find comfort and acceptance within ourselves.
From personal experience, I can assure you that this is no easy task. There are days I wake up and feel like with every turn I take, nothing goes right. My child isn’t listening, my husband and I can’t see eye to eye on things, and l feel like my life is spinning out of control.
It is a daily struggle to remember that I cannot control any of life’s moving pieces. I can only work on myself, and that means falling down, making mistakes, and picking myself up and trying again. I will always have to work on myself because I am a constant work-in-progress.
Comparing ourselves to others, albeit painful, requires no effort. We can simply point our finger at others and tread in waves of despair. To take a cold, hard look at ourselves, roll up our sleeves, and figure out what we can do to make ourselves feel better? That takes hard work, courage, awareness, and lots of perseverance.
WINNING THE BATTLE BY LOSING THE COMPARISON WAR
Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side, and sometimes it is not. There is nothing any of us can do about that. I cannot change the hardships I faced, and I have to accept that there will always be things I lack. What we can do is have the strength to work on the parts of ourselves that we can change and try our best to give ourselves grace and compassion along the way.
Therefore, I am conceding the comparison war. There will always be someone who does something better than me and does it effortlessly. As hard as I try, there are some things that will always be hard for me. There will always be people who have things I can never obtain.
The good news is that each day gives me a new opportunity to be a better version of myself than I was the day before. I can try my best no matter what others have or what I lack. Although I may not be the grand prize winner, I can be the winner of my own contest just by entering. I am playing the cards I was dealt to the best of my ability, and that is good enough for me.
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