Former president Theodore Roosevelt once said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” What I say is, “Comparison is the fast track to misery.” I want you to take a minute and think about this. Have you ever compared yourself to someone else and came out exactly even? I doubt it. It never or rarely happens.
Today I’d like to teach you how to stop comparing yourself to others so you end up feeling great about yourself and what you do have in your life, instead of bad about what others have and you don’t.
Comparison is Natural
We almost always compare ourselves to someone that we think is better, smarter, thinner, taller, shorter, more attractive, better dressed, more popular, more famous, wealthier, or more successful.
That leaves you feeling less than – and if you think you are somehow less than them in some way, you then convince yourself that they wouldn’t want to talk to you, be your friend, go out with you, or do business with you.
On the other hand, if you compare yourself to someone and you think you are better than them, then you think you shouldn’t waste your time with them.
In either case this kind of comparison creates separation. You don’t reach out to connect or interact with them for fear of being rejected or for fear of wasting your time.
This is one reason why there are so many lonely, unfulfilled and unsuccessful people in the world.
The Impact of Media
There is no question that one of the downsides of living in a world where everyone is connected to everyone else through social media is the constant temptation to compare yourself to everybody else.
Every time you log onto Facebook or Instagram, you see posts from people gushing about how great their lives are.
In today’s world you are constantly bombarded with an endless stream of perfectly shot photos of your social media “friends” looking fabulous and enjoying the most amazing good times, vacations, and parties with their friends, family, and colleagues.
Every time you go to read the news, watch TV or read People magazine, you see countless stories about all the rich and successful TV and movie stars, successful entrepreneurs, young tech millionaires and billionaires, Instagram models, successful rappers, celebrity DJs, and some people who are famous just for being famous.
Then you look at your own lives and you get depressed because you’re twenty pounds overweight, you haven’t gone anywhere on a vacation for years, your kids aren’t perfect, your relationships are complicated, you’re not famous, and the last picnic you went on got rained out.
Here’s a statistic that will probably come as no surprise: research has shown that time spent on social media feeds increases depression and envy, and decreases well-being.
The bottom line is that comparing yourself to others is a dangerous habit to get into. As I stated earlier, whenever you compare yourself to someone else, you’re almost always comparing yourself to someone who you think is better than you in some way.
It Never Improves Your Life
You may compare your looks to those of a movie star or celebrity model, your income to the income of your boss or your wealthy neighbor, and your happiness to the happiness of someone who seems to have their whole life figured out.
When you compare yourself to someone that you’ve already decided in your head is better than you in some way or another, you are always going to come up short.
This is from Robert Redford, arguably one of the more handsome men that has ever lived, a super successful movie star, director and producer, and a successful philanthropist.
This is what Robert said in an interview that appeared in Esquire when Robert Redford was 51 and his fellow actor and friend Paul Newman was 61.
“I’d probably say Paul Newman’s my best friend…A couple of weeks ago we went out to dinner with him in Connecticut, and I’m thinking to myself: God, here’s old Paul. What is he? Sixty? Sixty-one? I don’t know. He looks great, feels great, has a lot of money, gives to great causes. He’s in love with his wife, races his car when he wants to, makes a movie when he wants to, he’s incredibly happy and still has that face that looks the way it did when he was twenty. God, by the time we got home, I wanted to shoot myself.”
So as you can see from this example, all comparing yourself to others ever does is make you feel bad. It doesn’t help you improve yourself or make your life better in any way.
It just fills you with negative feelings, and steals time and energy from you that you could have devoted to something far more useful and productive.
Tips for Avoiding Comparison
If you find yourself falling into the comparison trap, you can refer to this guide to reclaim your happiness any time you’re feeling stress, have low self-esteem, need motivation, experience fear, or when any negative scenario arises.
Focus on Your Own Needs
Continuing to think negative comparison thoughts and experiencing negative emotions creates envy, jealousy, resentment, and bitterness. It’s harmful to your mental, physical, and spiritual health!
It’s like you’re drinking a poison that is making you sick. And you keep doing it. You don’t need that.
So whenever you find yourself feeling envious of someone else’s life, notice what you’re doing, and first–stop doing it! Log off of Facebook, stop looking at Instagram, stop gossiping with your friends, put down that fashion magazine, and turn off the TV!
Whatever it is that’s causing you to fall into the “comparison trap,” simply stop doing whatever is triggering the comparison.
Replace Negative Thoughts
The problem with simply stopping something is that if you don’t replace it with something positive. Something I call The Law of the Vacuum will pull it back in again.
You always have to replace the negative thought or habit with a positive one. And that leads into my next tip on how to stop comparing yourself, which is to focus on what YOU do have and not what other people have. Let’s call that the Law of Replacement.
Replace your thoughts of what you are lacking with thoughts of gratitude for what you have.
No matter how successful or attractive or wealthy you are, there is always going to be someone out there who is more successful, more attractive, and wealthier than you are. So what?
Their lives have zero impact on you and absolutely no bearing on what you might accomplish with your own life, so stop wasting your attention and energy on them.
You will experience so much more joy and satisfaction if you focus on what you already DO HAVE. Take time to think about all the things in your life that you have to feel grateful for.
Start with the little things—you’re alive, you’re free, you are not in prison or a concentration or refugee camp.
I just had an assistant in my annual Breakthrough to Success Seminar share with me that he was almost killed in Cambodia during the revolution, and then spent 10 years in squalor in a refugee camp in Thailand. Today millions of people are displaced all over Europe from Syria and Yemen.
Focus on the fact that you have running water, workable toilets, food in your refrigerator, a commuter, a television, a cell phone. Half the world’s population doesn’t.
Think of the dreams you have for your life – and the qualities and skills you have that will help you make your dreams come true. And remember this: what you focus on grows.
Be Aware of What You See
My next tip for how to stop comparing yourself to others is to remember that social media never tells the whole story.
Sure, that person you’re comparing yourself to on Facebook or Instagram might look wealthy and successful and like her life is perfect. But what you may not be aware of is that she may be struggling with an addiction to painkillers and her daughter is anorexic.
Sure, your colleague at work might be attractive and successful and successfully climbing the corporate ladder – but what you don’t know is that his kids live in a different city with his ex-wife and he never sees them, and it’s tearing him up inside.
My point is this, you never see what people’s social media posts DON’T tell you. And I promise you everybody is going through their own difficulties. Nobody’s life is perfect. Not mine. Not anybody’s.
Everybody has challenges and secrets that they don’t share. So whatever you imagine the gap between your life and their life to be, I guarantee that it’s nowhere near as big as you think it is. I have met a lot of very wealthy, very famous, and very powerful people in my life.
I can tell you that many of them are no happier than you are. And many are less happy. Stop comparing yourself to them and wishing you had their life, and focus instead on figuring out what you can do to create your own happiness.
The same thing goes for comparing yourself to the people that you actually interact with in your day-to-day life. Because comparing yourself to others wasn’t invented by social media!
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Keeping up with the Joneses!” Unfortunately, there have always been people who have used the success of others in their lives as a yardstick by which to measure their own success.
When you see your neighbors drive their new car into their driveway or your best friend just purchased that new large 4D high def TV, it’s easy to think you need to also have one to be enough.
It’s good to evaluate your progress and your growth in life, but the only yardstick you should be measuring yourself against is the yardstick of your own values, standards and previous accomplishments – not the accomplishments of others.
Instead of asking if you are as happy or as wealthy or as attractive as someone else, ask yourself if you are as happy or as wealthy or as fit and attractive as you want to be – without comparing it to anyone else’s reality.
If you want something better for yourself, go for it, but don’t do it because you are trying to keep up with someone else. Do it because it’s something you want for you because you believe it will make you happier and more fulfilled.
Now, I’d like to hear your thoughts about comparing yourself to others after reading this blog.
Have you ever found yourself falling into the “comparison trap”? Were you able to pull yourself out of it and get back to focusing on yourself? And if so, how?
If you feel inspired to share, please leave a comment below with your answer. I’d love to read what you have to say! Thanks for reading – and remember, nothing in your life will change for the better until you do.
As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, Jack Canfield fostered the emergence of inspirational anthologies as a genre—and watched it grow to a billion dollar market. As the driving force behind the development and delivery of over 100 million books sold through the Chicken Soup for the Soul® franchise, Jack Canfield is uniquely qualified to talk about success. Jack is America’s #1 Success Coach and wrote the life-changing book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and Jack speaks around the world on this subject. Check out his newest book The 30-Day Sobriety Solution: How to Cut Back or Quit Drinking in the Privacy of Your Own Home. Follow Jack at www.jackcanfield.com and sign up for his free resources today!
Image courtesy of ian dooley.