Comparison doesn’t serve us well, and it usually doesn’t bring joy to our lives. When we compare, we’re either putting others down, and telling ourselves we’re better OR putting ourselves down, and telling ourselves they’re better.
There’s no win/win in comparing. But what if no one had to win, or lose? What if we just made every effort to do the best we can? What if we didn’t expect ourselves to be perfect? Brene Brown calls this acceptance ‘the gift of imperfection’, in her book of the same name.
It was in coaching one of my clients, Laura, that I was reminded of how important this is. She was constantly comparing herself to others i.e. as a professional, a mum, a partner, a daughter, a friend. It was exhausting! And she found herself doing it even when she knew that the situations of those she was comparing herself with, were different – like the peer at work who didn’t have children, and worked longer hours.
Comparison usually left Laura as the ‘loser’ in her mind, resulting in a tendency to apologise for not being ‘good enough’. She recognised the cost of this constant comparison. It affected her confidence and belief in herself, and limited her vision of what she could achieve professionally. This translated to her feeling grateful someone gave her a job, when in fact they were incredibly lucky to have Laura working for them. She was smart, strategic, dedicated and a great team player.
When I asked Laura if she got any feedback from others that she wasn’t ‘being good enough’, the answer was no – people gave her lots of positive feedback. It was the voice in her head that was stronger, and she gave it too much weighting in deciding her worth.
We agreed Laura would spend the next week noting each time she compared herself to others. Lifting her awareness, plus undertaking a cost/benefit analysis of doing comparisons, motivated her to make some changes. Her strategies included deliberately acknowledging her own ability and achievements, accepting (and choosing to believe) compliments, and not apologising unnecessarily. And the benefits she identified? Feeling liberated, getting the ‘monkey off her back’, and being proud of what she regularly achieved in a 24 hour period.
If you have a tendency to compare yourself unfavourably to others (a) know you’re not alone, and (b) try some of the tips below:
- Allow yourself to be imperfect – we all make mistakes sometimes, acknowledge them and move on. They don’t define you.
- Halt the voice that wants to compare for negative outcome- when you hear that voice in your head, talk back to it. Tell it comparison isn’t objective or helpful, and to find someone else’s head to do it in!
- Keep a diary and daily record 3 things you’re grateful for, and 3 things you want to acknowledge yourself for that day. Research indicates journaling, and practising gratitude, offer several benefits including a greater comfort with oneself.
Most importantly, be self-compassionate if you slip up. It’s okay, you’re just like the rest of us.
A little healthy comparison can be okay, but if it’s constantly telling you you’re not good enough, it’s not serving you well. What role, if any, does comparison play in your life?