Comparison is a trap – Remain Authentic!
In the age of social media, we are bombarded with displays of accomplishment, triumph and celebration – all this makes comparing ourselves to others faster, easier and more prolific. Comparison is an act of fear; the fear of being our authentic selves.
Social Comparison Theory was first proposed in 1954 by psychologist Leon Festinger, who suggested that people have an innate drive to evaluate themselves based on comparison with others, whether it’s looks, talents, possessions and more. There are two kinds of social comparison:
1. Upward Social Comparisons are when we compare ourselves to others who we think are better than we are. Have you ever noticed that comparing yourself to others makes you feel jealous, envious or resentful? Anxious, lonely or depressed?
2. Downward Social Comparisons are when we compare ourselves to others who we think aren’t as good as we are. Have you ever noticed that comparing yourself to others makes you feel confident, proud or satisfied? Superior, smug or arrogant?
Though, comparing yourself to others isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If the energy is channelled properly, it can serve as a driving force that helps you work harder and strive higher. If you see others as acts of inspiration instead of adversaries, you can learn and be motivated by them and put yourself in a better position to accomplish your own hopes, goals and dreams. With proper perspective, you will appreciate people who are doing bigger, better or different things.
Comparison is the thief of joy
Unfortunately, comparisons are more often than not, destructive and damaging. Often people use them as evaluation tools to validate or reject their own success and self-worth. It’s human nature. At its worst, it can lead to jealousy or envy and has the potential to damage relationships, when instead of celebrating someone else’s success you resent it.
Comparisons usually negatively impact our emotional health and wellbeing. They make us feel small, insecure, inadequate and unhappy because there is always someone better out there. Instead of focusing and working on what we can control, we see ourselves as failures and let self-pity obstruct our drive to succeed and change who we are today into something better tomorrow. The more you focus on other people, the more you begin to question your own path, decisions and state of affairs.
Every day we are bombarded with images of the unattainable ideal. Gorgeous genetic anomalies are photographed with perfect lighting, photo-shopped, and plastered on every advertisement and magazine cover.
Here are some tips that can help us to escape the trap:
1. Be Grateful and show Appreciation
Competition is also a result of human nature. In the past, we needed to compete against one another for food and procreation rights. But, that is no longer true in today’s society. Now, we need to learn to cooperate, communicate authentically, and make real human connections. Comparisons are another form of competition that is outdated.
We can start making connections with others by showing gratitude and appreciation for those we interact with on a regular basis. Appreciate the good things that we currently have in our life instead of focusing on deficiencies that are not necessarily important. Gratitude is the best way to recognize the wonderful circumstances in our lives. Gratitude also dispels fear and allows us to be authentic with others.
2. Focus on Your Strengths
As cliché as it sounds it’s true: there is no one on Earth better at being you than you. We all have different strengths. Studies suggest that people who focus on cultivating their strengths are happier and more successful than people who focus on compensating for their weaknesses.
Don’t get me wrong, by all means you should aim to be a well-rounded person, but no flaw holds up as a valid excuse to live your life with a victim mentality. Turn your signature strengths into a personal brand of awesomeness.
3. Take time to Serve Others
It’s easy to resort to judging and criticizing others to boost ourselves up and feel a short-lived sense of control. But by latching onto the need to label others, you limit your reality to a frail, inflexible frame. Be kind to others and try to appreciate their positive traits. This way you turn off your internal ranking system, and subconsciously start feeling more positive about yourself.
4. Enjoy the Journey
The egocentric survival instinct to amass as much material wealth at any cost is persuasive. We’re sold “magic pills” for weight-loss, relationships, and success. Apps are designed to be addictive; yummy warm dopamine fires off in your brain every time you get a notification; Now more than ever, we expect instant gratification. We want the gold at the end of the rainbow and forget to take in all the colours along the way.
This may come as a surprise, but someday you and everyone you know will die; and when you do, you won’t be able to take your possessions with you. Your time and energy are too precious to waste on impressing other people. The number one regret people have on their death bed is, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” In the end, you are only truly competing with yourself. Embrace your current circumstances and embrace yourself.
Change Your Focus
Comparing ourselves to others allows them to influence our behaviour. This is not an empowering act, it’s disempowering. We’re focusing on the external of what we see, instead of concentrating on the internal which we can change. The focus and energy expelled needs to be placed on what you’re capable of now and what ways you can develop yourself.
Don’t forget, that you were created to be a unique individual, so comparison dilutes your gifts and talents which cannot be fairly compared with others. Your contributions and value are unique to your individual purpose in the world. Therefore, you could never be compared to another.
So how do we stop the habit of comparing? We change our focus. By changing our focus from the external (others) to the internal, improving ourselves, we reclaim our power to make the changes we desire in our lives. By doing so, we can let go of the fear of being ourselves.
You are Enough
If you always feel you need what others have, you will never have enough. You will always want more. That’s an endless cycle. If you continue to compare yourself with others, then you will feel like you’re never enough. No one else on this planet is like you, so you really can’t compare yourself to anyone.
We are worthy just as we are. We need to focus on the positive aspects of our lives and what we do well. Learn to appreciate others and know that our imperfections make us authentic. By letting go of comparison we release the fear of being authentically ourselves.