We’re a funny old species. We’re highly intelligent and yet knowingly partake in so many thoughts and activities that reflect the opposite of what it is we hope to achieve and work against our wellbeing. We smoke, overeat, drink alcohol, take risks and avoid the things we know are helpful for our mental and emotional health. And we continuously look to others to evaluate the relative success of our lives. We strive to be seen as unique individuals and yet fall into the trap of comparison over and over.
So why do we compare ourselves to others? We see comparison at a very early age when babies wrestle toys from each other; eager to have what their counterpart has. And from an evolutionary perspective, it makes a certain amount of sense. An awareness of the success of others keeps us on our toes. If others do well, comparison creates the motivation for us to do well also. And within reason, this is true. However oftentimes, particularly in a time where social media representations make the lives of others look so extravagantly impressive, motivation decreases along with self acceptance and worth. Negative comparison leaves us feeling inadequate and worthless. It blinkers our perspective; we see the best of others and the worst of ourselves. It misplaces our focus to the achievements of others as opposed to the work we need to do ourselves It also leaves us open to uncomfortable sensations such as schadenfreude and resentment, where we feel so worthless in our lives, that we revel in the misfortune of others. So how do we make the switch from deflating intimidation to motivational inspiration? How do we admire others without losing our sense of joy? The following are some practices we can put in place that help us stay on track:
Practice acceptance: Without sufficient self-worth and self-acceptance, we will always be susceptible to the assumption that we are inferior to others. Self-awareness and acceptance of our entirety – strengths and weaknesses – helps us recognise ourselves in a compassionate light and make the most of our abilities.
Practice gratitude & vulnerability: Try to find appreciation for what you have and accept your fallibility humbly. We all have imperfections; it is these that make us unique. When we celebrate our quirks, oddities and perceived failings, they become less salient; freeing up our finite energy to create using our own idiosyncratic style.
Compliment others: Trying to openly appreciate instead of secretly resenting can be challenging but is a discipline worth manifesting.
Focus on what really counts: Success, flamboyant triumph and social media adulation may feel good temporarily, setting our dopamine system alight with an ego boost. However, what truly makes a person’s life fulfilling is the peace of mind that comes with acceptance, humility, empathy, kindness and love. Focus on growing your character, not your followers.
Stop following the movement of others: One easy way to feel better about yourself, is to stop using the achievements of others as your standard. And one incredibly simple way to do this is to monitor your social media usage
Forgive yourself: Comparison happens us all. Resentment, envy and shame are an inevitable aspect of humanity. Be mindful and aware and work through it with compassion and integrity. Be kind to yourself, lower your standards and open your heart.
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