How often do you compare yourself to others? If you're anything like me and most of the people I know and work with, probably more than you'd like to admit. And, as you may have noticed (like I have), this comparison process never seems to feel very good or work very well, does it?
Last week a woman sent me an email and suggested that I check out the website of another author/speaker. She said he reminded her of me and thought we should know each other. I looked at his website and was very impressed. So much so that my Gremlin (that negative, critical voice in my head) started telling me how much better this guy is than me. "Look at him -- he's a stud: funny, good looking and super tech-savvy. His site is way cooler than yours, his approach is more hip, and he has this whole thing figured out much better than you do."
After looking at his website and listening to my Gremlin, I found that I was feeling jealous, inferior and self-conscious. Can you relate to this?
Sadly, many of us spend and waste lots of time and energy comparing ourselves to others. Oftentimes we end up feeling inferior to people based on our own self judgment and hyper-criticism. However, we also may find ourselves feeling superior to some of the people around us, based on certain aspects of our lives and careers we think are going well and/or the specific struggles of the people in our lives.
The trap of comparison, however, is that whether we feel "less than" someone else or "better than" another person, we're stuck in a negative loop. This is the same coin -- heads we "win" and think we're better and tails we "lose" and think we're worse. All of this is an insatiable ego game that sets us all up to lose ultimately. Comparison leads to jealousy, anxiety, judgment, criticism, separation, loneliness and more.
It's normal for us to compare ourselves to others -- especially given the nature of how most of us were raised and the competitive culture in which we live. However, this comparison game can have serious consequences on our self esteem, our relationships, our work and our overall experience of life.
The irony is that almost everyone feels this way, and we often erroneously think that if we just made more money, lost some weight, had more friends, got a better job, moved into a nicer place, had more outward "success," found the "perfect" partner (or changed our partner into that "perfect" person), or whatever, than these insecure and unhealthy feelings of inferior/superior comparison would simply go away. Not true.
How we can transform our comparison process into an experience of growth, connection and self acceptance and self love (and ultimately let it go) is by dealing with it directly and going to the source -- us, and how we relate to ourselves.
Here are some things you can do to unhook yourself from the comparison trap:
1) Have empathy and compassion for yourself. When we notice we're comparing ourselves to other people and feeling either inferior or superior, it's essential to have a deep sense of compassion and empathy for ourselves. Comparison almost always comes from a place of insecurity and fear, not of deficiency or mal-intent. Judging ourselves as "less than" someone else or judging ourselves for going into comparison mode in the first place (which many of us do once we become aware of our tendency to do this), doesn't help. In fact, this judgment causes more harm and keeps us stuck in the negative pattern.
2) Use comparison as an opportunity to accept, appreciate and love yourself. When comparison shows up, there is usually a lack of acceptance, appreciation, and love for ourselves. Instead of feeling bad about what we think is wrong with us or critical of ourselves for being judgmental, what if we took this as a cue to take care of and nurture ourselves in an authentic way.
3) Be willing to admit your own jealousy. One of the best ways to release something is to admit it (i.e. "tell on yourself"). While this can be a little scary and vulnerable to do, when we have the courage to admit our own jealousy we can own it in a way that is liberating to both us and other people. Acknowledging the fact that we feel jealous of another person's success, talent, accomplishment or quality is a great way to let go of it and to remove the barrier we may feel with that person or experience. If you find yourself jealous of someone you don't know (like a celebrity or just someone you haven't met personally), you can acknowledge these feelings to someone close to you or even in a meditation with an image of that actual person.
4) Acknowledge the people you compare yourself to. Another great way to break through the negative impact of comparing ourselves to others is to reach out to them with some genuine appreciation. After a few minutes of feeling bad about myself, I ended up reaching out to the guy whose website I looked at last week, acknowledged him for the good work he is doing, and asked if we could connect. It felt good and liberating to do that. The more excited we're willing to get for other people's success, talents and experiences, the more likely we are to manifest positive feelings and outcomes in our own lives. There is not a finite amount of success or fulfillment, and when we acknowledge people we compare ourselves to, we remind ourselves that there is more than enough to go around and that we're capable of experiencing and manifesting wonderful things in our own life as well.
Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info -- www.Mike-Robbins.com