In this article I wish to address a question that was sent to me by a member of the Sky High Coaching community. Karen emailed me and asked how she can stop comparing herself to other people. She told me comparing herself to others has gone beyond, what she considers harmless tiny bouts of “oh, having that would be nice”, and morphed into a tidal wave of pure envy that renders her unable to socialise with some of her friends. The pain of seeing what they have, and what she does not, is too upsetting for her. Karen told me that, logically, she knows everyone is on their own path and not everyone’s lives are perfect. But the overwhelming feeling of lack and jealousy is causing her to feel disempowered, hopeless and less than confident about her future.
So why do 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 doing?
Firstly (and this is my hypothesis only so please don’t quote me on it) I wonder if it goes back to prehistoric times when the weakest member of the clan was often left behind and eaten by a mammoth. Do we have a biological need to ensure we are not the weakest in the clan?
Secondly (and this theory has more clout) Maslow tells us we have a hierarchy of needs. 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 – the list goes on and on.
The practise of comparing ourselves to others becomes a problem when we idolise our friends, colleagues, neighbours and sometimes 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 – instead obsessing on what they have and we don’t. This has the ability to spiral us into feelings of dissatisfaction and frustration.
On the flip side, this 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. 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 have? Once you know the answer work out what you are going to do with than information, then let the feeling go.
Here are my top 5 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.
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 an International Coach, Speaker, Author, Presenter and Amateur Video Maker who helps high performers create extraordinary lives. My clients include CEOs, executive leaders, business owners, entrepreneurs, Olympians and mums!
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