Are you often plagued by the fear that you are inadequate? That someone you know is healthier, smarter, more attractive, or more successful than you – and that means you are not as good of a person? The truth is, the problem is not with that other person’s “betterness,” or even with you. It is the act of comparison that is holding you back.
It is often much easier to see the good in others than in ourselves. We usually do not know what another person is going through under the surface, we only have what they show and tell us. Most people tend to share only the good things in their lives, not the challenges. So we just see them experience some achievement or blessing, and wish that same good thing would happen for us.
It goes along with that old saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side.” We do not know of the effort, struggle, self-doubt, and anguish that might have gone into earning or receiving that boon, or the normal life ickiness they might have to deal with on a daily basis.
The Other Green
Comparison sets us up for another type of greenness: envy. Envy is one of the most toxic emotional states. It actually cuts us off from experiencing the beauty in life, because all we can see is how someone else has something that we want. This both creates separation between us and the other person, and devalues anything we might receive or achieve.
Comparison puts us into a scarcity mindset. It is based on the belief that there is only so much of a certain positive thing (love, beauty, good jobs, health, money, babies) to go around. If someone else has something then there is less available for us.
This kind of thinking limits what we are able to manifest in our lives. We effectively are telling the universe that we do not believe there is any goodness available for us, so we make it that much harder for the things we want to appear in our lives
An Uneven Measure
But worse than jealousy is self-judgment. When we see another person’s blessings or accomplishments and compare ourselves against that, we inevitably fall into the frequencies of guilt, shame, inadequacy, and judgement. It becomes impossible to feel good about ourselves if we are always measuring our lives against what we see in others.
If it looks like we are doing better than someone else, we may experience a momentary boost. But that pleasure is based on competition, and will melt as soon as we jump to the next comparison. And if we come up short against another person, then our confidence and self-esteem take a nosedive.
Comparison actually works opposite the way we want it to. It can ruin motivation and make us less likely to complete our goals. It makes us look outside of ourselves for approval and validation. It damages our sense of self and traps us in a vicious cycle.
Basically, comparing yourself to others makes life a competition – that you will always loose.
The Comparisons that Count
If you are going to make a comparison, compare who you are to who you were. Evaluate your progress in the areas of life that matter to you. Are you healthier now than you were a year ago? How have you progressed towards your goals? How have you grown? Are you contributing more to the world now than you were before? Are you closer to being the person you wanted to be when you grew up?
Moving Past Comparisons
To release your tendency to compare, it is helpful to think of it like any other ingrained unhealthy habit. Transforming a habit always begins with awareness. It is important to stay out of shame or judgment when you recognize you are comparing. Just be mindful, and see if you can re-direct your attention.
Every time you realize that you are comparing yourself to someone else, pause, take a deep breath, and bring your awareness back to yourself. Find the place within yourself (however hidden) that is actually happy for that person’s happiness.
One of the virtues of a healthy and happy life is what the Buddhists call mudita, or joy for another’s joy. When we can experience true happiness for another’s blessings, we are one step closer to experiencing true interconnectedness – the understanding that we are all one. One person’s joy is everyone’s joy, when perceived in this way.
The other side to this equation, and what makes mudita easier to experience, is building your self-worth. Establish a strong foundation of self-love, so you are less tempted to seek external validation. Become so focused on living your passion and sharing your creativity that you do not have the time or energy to compare yourself to others. Honor your unique genius, and let it shine.
Comparison is deadly for our self-esteem and can undermine our health. But underneath it hides our desire to be our best, to be loved, accepted, and successful. Connect with that authentic desire to excel, and focus on how you can share your gifts with the world. Then comparison will become something you used to do.