Today I'd like to introduce you to Emily (may or may not be her real name) who recently emailed me with a question.
How do I stop comparing myself to other people? Comparing myself to others has gone beyond, what I consider harmless tiny bouts of “oh, having that would be nice”, and morphed into a tidal wave of pure envy that renders me unable to socialise with some of my friends. The pain of seeing what they have, and what I do not, is too upsetting for me. Logically, I know everyone is on their own path and not everyone’s lives are perfect. But the overwhelming feeling of lack and jealousy is causing me to feel disempowered, hopeless and doubtful about my future. I need some help!"
Dear Emily. Great question! Have you ever wondered why we compare ourselves to others in the first place? Why don’t we just live our lives our way, without worrying about what our friends/family/neighbours/colleagues are obtaining or experiencing?
Firstly, I wonder if it goes back to the earliest time of human existence when the weakest member of a nomadic tribe was left behind (and most likely eaten by a mammoth). Do we have a biological need to ensure we are not the weakest in the tribe?
Next, let's turn to Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist who is most famous for creating Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: a theory of psychological health implying how humans fulfill innate needs. He identified these basic human needs as: Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem and Self Actualisation. For our purposes today, let’s focus on Esteem. Maslow tells us our overall esteem is linked to self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others and respect by others.
One of the easiest ways our mind searches for proof of achievement is by comparing where we sit on the ‘scale of life’, to where we perceive others to sit. We compare salaries, income, cars, jobs, houses, behaviour of children, partners, hair styles, body composition etc.
The practise of comparing ourselves to others becomes a problem when we begin to idolise our friends, colleagues, neighbours and, some would consider more worrying, people we don’t even know. We fail to take into account their humanness. Everyone has hardship, struggles and challenges in their life. Yet sometimes we dismiss this – choosing instead to obsess on what they have and we don’t - which, if left unchecked, may spiral us into feelings of dissatisfaction and frustration.
On the flip side, measuring where we 'sit' can be a healthy and positive practise when it motivates it us to move forward, challenge ourselves and achieve something we want in our lives. Think of an elite swimmer checking her main competitor's record time or a student aiming to achieve Dux Litterarum in his course. This practise can also be a great way to clarify your vision. If you find yourself feeling envious of someone, check in with yourself. Get curious. What are you envious about? What is it they have that you’d love to experience in your own life? Find the answer, decided what you are going to do with that information, then let the feeling go.
Here are my Top 6 tips for letting go of unhealthy comparisons to others:
Be grateful for what you have. There are people going through hardships you would never wish to face.
Work out your top 5 values and live in alignment with them. Every single day.
Ban the word “should” from your vocabulary.
Let go of perfectionism – embrace humanism, in yourself and others.
Dive inwards and deepen your self-love.
Remember you are in one chapter of your life – the book isn’t closed yet. Get clear on YOUR vision for YOUR life and stay on the path
Hi and thanks for reading! My name is Janelle Ryan and I am a Global Personal Coach, Speaker, Author and Presenter who helps high performers expand their minds to new ways of thinking...so they can create whatever they wish in their lives...then lead and inspire others.
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