The other day, I read an article by Claire Musters called "Don't Compare." She said that comparing herself to others was something she did "throughout" her life. So have I, and so have millions of others. This got me thinking: what self help is out there to solve this problem? A simple Google search revealed a whole lot. The expression "beating a dead horse" doesn't even compare to how many times people have talked about this subject. There are so many articles written by people who have all experienced the same thing and how they overcame it. You could spend your entire life reading them.
So why do I bring it up? It's because despite all the help that's out there, people still struggle with comparing themselves to others. Some people don't notice it. For others, it's a glaring issue. Maybe we're trying too hard. Perhaps we need to look at it from a different angle.
Here's what I want to explore: what's the nature of comparison and how can we solve the problem?
The Nature of Comparing: Why do we do it?
There are two sides to comparing yourself to others. The first promotes false encouragement through judgment. That's seeing yourself as being better than someone else. The other side promotes relishing in defeat and succumbing to failure. That's seeing yourself as less than someone else. Both require measurements, and it's a never-ending downward spiral. It's like a cup with holes in it that can never be filled up.
Comparing yourself to others is also addictive, no matter which side you take. Believe it or not, I used to flourish in my self defeat, and negativity became something I thrived in. It made me feel something, whether good or bad, and closed off all my other options. It made me narrow-minded. Feeding off that emotion turned into an addiction. The addiction was a bad habit. Bad habits can be incredibly hard to break. Bible teacher Joyce Meyer said that to break a bad habit, you have to make a good one.
Now that we know what the problem is, how do we treat it?
Two Solutions by Joe Babauta
Self help blogs on this topic list several ways to counter your comparison problem, but there are two ways that rise above the rest. Leo Babauta stated them in his blog, "Comparing Yourself to Others." I don't know if he knew this, but those two points are backed up by biblical doctrine, something I took into consideration when writing this post.
1. Appreciate who you are - countering the sense of defeat
I was feeling jealous a couple years ago when my cousin, who is about three years younger than me, got married. Some single ladies like myself have that itching desire somewhere in there to settle down and start a family someday. I am no exception. But my mom offered some wisdom, albeit sternly, that I will never get: "Kellie, be content with the stage of life you're in." St. Paul, a man who often met fierce opposition for spreading Christianity, said "I have learned to be content with whatever I have" (Philippians 4:11).
"Okay, be content. How do I do that?" some of you might be asking. The short answer is to like yourself. You have to spend 24/7 with you anyway, so might as well get used to being you. Focus on your characteristics. Are you kind? Are you generous? Are you good at something in particular? That will help you to think positive, which will counter the bad habit of being negative. Pretty soon, your inward, positive self will reflect your outward self, or how you project yourself to other people.
2. Seek to understand, but don't judge - learning to humble yourself
I want to focus on the "don't judge" part. This is nothing knew; we've heard it many times before. Jesus said it before any self help books came out. That whole section is a comical read, by the way. If you ever wanted to know how Jesus flipped out at religious critics, I recommend you read it in Matthew 7.
Comical scriptures aside, there's something to be learned here. I said before that there's a false sense of encouragement that comes with judging others. You get this high, which stems from selfishness. Well, I've got some bad news for you, but good if you're looking to change. You may be the centre of your world, but you're not the centre of reality. I had a shirt when I was a teenager that said "It's all about me." It wasn't until I grew out of it when I became an adult that I realized how foolish those words were.
Remember the cup with holes? Work on patching up the holes in your own life. Humble yourself. As Babauta said, try to understand the other person's situation. And the next time you see someone who's not doing so well, maybe you could offer to help them out instead of point the finger.
Don't Compare, But Be Inspired!
I'm not leaving without offering a little suggestion of my own. There are a lot of successful people out there. They are role models to look up to. Instead of thinking how you'll never measure up to them, be inspired by them to be a better you. I don't think looking at someone else's success is bad. It's your attitude toward those successes that make or break you.
So be inspired. Understand that you start somewhere and you're on your way to something greater. And if you're at the top, humble yourself toward others because there was probably a time when you were grovelling at the bottom of the status chain, too.
Lastly, keep this in mind. Life isn't measured; it's valued. That includes your life and every other life.
For further reading on comparing yourself to others, check out "Stop Comparing Life. Start Living It" written by Joshua Becker, and Henrik Edberg's "How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others (and Start Empowering Yourself)".
What advice would you give to people struggling with this problem? If you used to have this issue, did you read blogs to help you get out of it? Leave a comment with your favourite self help blogs. If you like what you read and want me to cover a certain topic, let me know in the comments.