Let’s talk about comparing yourself to others. Recently I’ve been talking with lots of people who are doing this. I don’t know if the COVID lockdowns have given us more time to think and reflect on ourselves and whether this plays a part, yet I’ve noticed a bit of a trend in my world.
I have a saying – Confidence is not comparison. What I mean by that is that our confidence will not grow if we consistently compare ourselves to others and judge ourselves on this. Interestingly this can work 2 ways.
So we might compare ourselves to others and then conclude that we stack up poorly against them – that we are not ‘as good’. Or we can compare ourselves to others and conclude that we are better than someone.
Now, if this is something we consistently do, and often… neither of these approaches are helpful. Neither of these will build true inner confidence and self respect. Because we are judging ourselves based only on a part of the picture. Particularly when we know little about the other person and their world. Even when we do know someone well, we are not able to see inside their minds, to hear the self-talk they have – be they doubts, intentions, fears or passions.
So what do people tend to compare themselves to others about? Well, I think the list might be endless!
She’s smarter than me
He’s dumber than me
I’m better at this than they are
They have better clothes than me
He is never going to be good at this like I am
I’m not as clever as them
I really wish I could be more like her
She doesn’t have the skills that I do
Ok, I’ll stop there. I think you get the picture!
If you find these phrases run through your mind from time to time, it may not be a big deal. It might be out of respect, or a competitive nature. Your intent may be positive, and no harm done. In some cases, a thought like this might spur you on to greater achievements.
Yet if you find yourself having these thoughts regularly, or in such a way that they are impacting your self-esteem, then we may have an issue to resolve.
Firstly, if this is you, don’t be hard on yourself! Society has taught us some of these thought patterns as we grow up – we are assessed and discussed in many places to ‘others’. The media also plays a role, and some people do compare themselves to media personalities – I wish I was living so-and-sos life, for example. And in extreme cases it can result in major self- esteem issues and potentially trigger clinical mental health issues.
If we think we are less than others, then we can fall into a state of withdrawing from others, or a state of anxiety about our abilities. If we think we are more than others, we can become dismissive, and demonstrate arrogant behaviours.
Neither of these situations help us to build relationships with others and operate at our peak potential. And this in itself is interesting, because if we are comparing in this way, we won’t let our own strengths shine, nor be able to develop in areas where we want to improve our skills, knowledge, experience, fitness – whatever it might be. We’ll be paralysed or focused on other things – namely comparing.
And comparing is exhausting! Because we are on alert for finding fault in ourselves or others. And it can wear us down.
So is the goal to STOP comparing ourselves?
Well, it depends on the disruption it is causing and the frequency with which it captures your attention. Some comparison might be useful – for instance – I want to be a leader like that person. It becomes useful when it helps you aim toward gaining a skill, knowledge or experience that will help you to achieve your OWN unique goals.
So in this instance, asking yourself something helpful like – How does this comparison help me achieve my goals in a healthy way? Or What can I learn from this person?
These types of questions may be very useful for you to identify what it is that you admire (or don’t) in another person, to apply that to the way you conduct yourself.
However, if your comparison to others is causing you to be exhibiting behaviours associated with anxiety, depression or superiority and dismissiveness, or if it really is just causing you frequent frustration (like Why can’t they do this?) then it might be time to change your focus.
We are all different. In most cases our differences are neither good, nor bad. Everyone is on their own journey through life, facing their own challenges and highlights.
So how do you unlock your unique potential, and stop comparing yourself to others?
Here are a few tips – yet definitely if this is an issue for you, seek some professional guidance, or do some research – there is a lot of information out there. If you think that a coach could help, then reach out to us here. If you work in healthcare, then also consider joining our Facebook group We Lead Healthcare and ask questions to get some advice.
Tip number 1
Recognise your thought patterns – the key to changing your self-limiting thoughts and beliefs is to consciously notice when they appear. If it helps, use a journal to understand their frequency and trigger – are you comparing at work, at home? Is it about something/someone in particular? Once we notice it and understand it a little better we can catch ourselves in the moment and proceed to tip number 2.
Tip number 2
Ask yourself a question about the comparison – is this helping or hindering me to achieve my own goals? If it’s hindering, then time to change tact!
Tip number 3
Remind yourself that the other person is simply different to you, and that’s perfectly ok! We are not all the same. Also remind yourself that you don’t know the full story of them as a person and what they might be struggling with or experiencing. Bring kindness and empathy in – for yourself, and others.
Tip number 4
Write a list of your strengths and the things you do like about yourself! Keep reminding yourself of these unique gifts that you have.
Tip number 5
Set some goals! If there is something you want to be better at, and it makes healthy sense to do so, then set a goal! Put a timeframe on it and work out the steps to get there. Then get started! Nothing like this sort of action to quieten the unhelpful thinking patterns.
You are unique, you have your own life journey to focus on. Confidence will come from action and positive intent. Being kind to yourself.