How to successfully stop comparing yourself to others is hard, but there are ways you can control it. Here are 10 manageable strategies you can try for yourself.
You've just closed a fantastic deal with a challenging client. As you pack up for the day, your boss comes over to your desk and congratulates you on your achievement and thanks you for all you've done. You're literally doing cartwheels on cloud 9.
Feeling pretty pleased with yourself you plan to celebrate your achievement that evening with a glass of wine in front of the telly watching your favourite film.
Life is good. You feel good.
Until a colleague says 'hey, did you hear the news? Sally's just got a sales award.'
Suddenly, the cloud has burst, and your rain-soaked ego deflates. You feel like shit.
Does this sound familiar?
We're Happy Until…
- How is it we're happy with our own achievements until we perceive someone else has done better than us?
- Why do we feel the need to review our own achievements against what others have achieved and beat ourselves up for not being good enough?
- And what is the real impact to our confidence when we compare ourselves to others?
As the quote from Theodore Roosevelt summarises:
Comparison is the thief of joy.
It's time to stop comparing yourself to others because it can single-handedly ruin your confidence.
Why Are We Obsessed With Comparing Ourselves To Others?
We all do it. In fact, we can't help ourselves.
According to Leon Festinger, who wrote about this in his Social Comparison Theory, we have a desire to understand ourselves and our place in the world.
We're reducing our uncertainty and through it, learn to define ourselves.
On a darker note, sometimes we compare ourselves to others to make ourselves feel better. It's a form of macabre revelry that others are not good enough.
What Are We Comparing?
On a deep level, we know life is not a competition. Although we know we all have different strengths and talents, we can't help looking at other people's lives and thinking they have a better:
- Social life
The list could go on.
But the outcome is always the same we feel:
How To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
Playing the comparison game is exhausting. For a start, the goalposts frequently change depending upon who you're comparing yourself to. Here are my 10 strategies to stop comparing yourself to others.
Social Media Detox
Social media has become an increasing presence in our lives. Whilst it's great to keep up with what friends and family are doing. It's also a platform for self-promotion. But people only show the parts of their life they want others to see. That usually translates to the successes they achieve. As a result, it's hard not to get caught up in comparing yourself to others. The scary part is there's pressure to aspire to unachievable standards of beauty and success.
Ultimately it can make you feel bad, insecure about your own life and can dangerously lead you to live life vicariously through others. As a result, you miss out on the things that really matter to you. Life Hack has a great article 9 Reasons Why a Social Media Detox Is Good for You (lifehack.org) which is worth a read.
When you're comparing yourself to others, you become envious of what they have, believing they have a better life than yours. We conveniently forget that we also have things in our own life that others may envy. If you focus on what you have, you become more grateful for it. You become less interested in what others say they have and become more grounded as a result.
The best way to practice gratitude is to keep a daily journal and note down three things you're grateful for every day. It doesn't have to be grandiose. You could be grateful for that first cup of coffee in the morning, or the colleague who supported you in a meeting.
Be thankful for what is in your life rather than getting upset for what you don't have. I promise it will make you happier.
Focus On What You Can Do
Too often, when you're comparing yourself to other's, the focus is on what you can't do, or what you can't achieve after that madness follows.
When you don't feel confident about yourself, or an aspect of yourself, it's too easy to think I can't be confident or I'm not confident. But if you focus on where you do have confidence and build it from there, you'll be amazed at what you can achieve. For example, if public speaking has you running for the hills, think about the ways you do speak in front of others. These could include members of your family, friends or even to the checkout assistant at the local shop. Building on these interactions will help you build confidence to talk to a broader audience.
Always believe that you can start small and grow.
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Focus On Yourself
When you're comparing yourself to others, your focus is on other people and not on yourself. Sadly, you forget about your own progress and what you've achieved.
The only way to monitor success is to understand what success means to you and how you will measure it. Forget about everyone else. We all start in different positions with different advantages and disadvantages.
You can't compare your starting point with someone else's in the same way you can't compare your end with another. Everyone has a different journey. I often see clients who compare their start with someone else's middle or even end. You will get there. It would be best if you had some patience, a bit of self-love and a belief in yourself.
Focus on yourself and commit to improve a little each day. That way, you'll see continual and consistent progress.
You are you. I know this is going to sound harsh, but whether you like it or not, you are in your current situation either because of action you have or have not taken.
You can beat yourself up, wail out loud at how unfair life is, or you can accept where you are now and plan to do things differently. When you're comparing yourself to others, you see the result of their achievement. You don't see the hard work that it took for that person to get there.
Accept where you are now and if you're not happy with your current situation, think about ways you can improve it. If need be, seek additional help.
I'd love to be Oprah Winfrey. A lady who has seen a great deal of success in helping others. But if you know anything about Oprah's background, you'll know she hasn't had an easy time of it.
But rather than harbour jealous thoughts, I see Oprah as someone who inspires me to be better every day.
Inspiration can come from every area of our life. If you're jealous of a friend or colleague's success, think about what it is she is successful at. Use her as your inspiration to improve yourself.
Celebrate Other's Success
When you engage in genuine celebration of someone's success, it releases a good old dose of feel-good hormones.
If you focus on comparing yourself to others, you harbour negative thoughts. Put aside any thoughts of jealousy as this emotion will only:
- hold you back
- eat away at you and
- spits you out bitter and twisted.
It's Not A Competition
Life is not a competition. Besides, the prize is different for each of us. Are we all in a race against time? Or perhaps a race to discover the secret to success? If that's the competition, then we're going to lose.
We've all heard about the survival of the fittest, but that's outdated and more relevant for cave dwellers running away from dinosaurs. Besides, there are more ways to win a game than being physically fit. There's mental agility, action-taking, and creative thinking, to name a few. Competition also reeks of scarcity. There's enough success to go round.
The only person you should compete with is yourself. This fits in with the need to focus on yourself. If you perceive every part of your life as a competition, you're going to be exhausted. Besides, you can't win everything. Some things you'll be better at than others, so to try and compete at every level doesn't make sense.
Give yourself a break.
Journal Your Wins
Whether they're big or small, take the time to write out your wins daily. They don't have to be massive achievements.
When I struggled with depression, getting out of bed was an achievement. Your achievement could be recognising something about yourself. My breakthrough came when I realised my procrastination was a fear of failure. I now make a point of making a journal note each time I step outside of my comfort zone.
A journal can also provide a barometer to see how far you've come. Especially if you compare your diary entry from a previous week, month, or even year.
So, try it out. What are you proud of achieving today?
Live your life following your personal code. You won't have time to compare yourself to others.
Take the time to explore your values. If you need any help with this, please read my article What You Need To Know About Personal Values. If you need help identifying your core values, you might find How To Find Your Unique Personal Values useful.
When you decide to live your life in accordance to your code you are authentic. If you try to compare yourself to others, it can lead you to adopt an approach to life that's not who you really are. In that case, you'll only find frustration and confusion.
An Extra Special Strategy - Be Unique
Although I've ended with this strategy, it encapsulates all of the above. When you're comparing yourself to others, you can lose yourself in what is their success and not your own.
Celebrate that you are unique. Accept that you have flaws. But know you also have a massive amount of talent that could lie undeveloped if you put your attention on comparing yourself to other people.
Next Steps: Take Action To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
Comparing yourself to others is the fastest route to unhappiness and discontent. It would be simple for me to say – stop doing it. But that's not very helpful.
If you want to overcome this tendency, then positive action will need to be taken.
Review Your Social Media Feed
Think about what you get out of following certain people. Do they inspire you? Do they make you feel good about yourself? If not, it's time to step away. Unfollow anyone who is not serving a purpose for you.
Limit Your Time On Social Media
Be intentional about how you use social media. If you limit the amount of time you spend scrolling through posts, you're less likely to be caught up in the comparison game.
Grab a notebook and pen and place them on your bedside table. Then before you turn the light off each night, commit to write 3 things you were grateful for that day.
Create An 'I Can Do This' List
Put some quiet time aside and think about all the things that you can do. Consider your strengths and qualities. Take your time with this exercise, watch what you do over the coming days and make a note of what you do. You might surprise yourself. Sign up for my newsletter and received a free guide on How To Find Your Strengths.
Put Yourself In The Spotlight
Where do you want to improve? Set yourself a goal and work towards it, monitoring each step as you go. You only need to improve by 1% every day to see a massive difference in a year.
I Am What I Am
Look at your current life. Identify an area where you're not happy and make a plan of how you can improve the situation. Are you holding yourself back in some way? Be brave, face yourself in the mirror and make a proper assessment. Then think of how you can do better.
Create a list of 3 people you admire. Then add reasons as to why you admire them. What do they do? How do they behave? Look for patterns or similarities and build your own strategy.
Cheer Out Loud
Look for ways to congratulate others on their achievements. Give them an energy boost to show that their efforts are recognised. You'll soon find that others will do the same for you.
Compete Against Yourself
Focus on yourself and build on a strength. You could set a goal to achieve more confidence in a particular area. For example, you want to be more socially confident. Start with smiling at a stranger in the street. Each time you do it, give yourself a tick. See how many times you can do it in a week and then see if you can achieve the same number in a day.
Treat yourself to a special notebook and then each day write a summary of what you achieved that day. Review at the end of the week and then at the end of the month. As you progress, you can compare your achievements every month. You won't need to engage in comparing yourself to others.
Decide On Your 3 Values
Read How To Find Your Unique Personal Values and decide on your 3 core values. Write them up and put them somewhere prominent. Then when you are faced with a difficult decision or find yourself falling back into comparing yourself with others, re-read your values.
Celebrate your gorgeous unique self. Write about what makes you unique. How are you different from other people? You could add this to your daily journal or in a notebook and add to it every time you discover something about yourself.
To break free from the destructive habit of comparing yourself to others takes discipline isn't easy. You have to work at it. But, when you start to focus on yourself and accept who you are, you'll be able to stand on your own two feet.
You'll feel more confident about yourself, your actions, and your ability to make progress. You won't need external validation or feel compelled to seek your worth by comparing yourself to others.
Now, that's a goal worth having.