Comparison. We all struggle with it sometimes and it’s largely considered a ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ thing to do in our society.
You’ve heard the sayings “comparison is the thief of joy” and “comparison is an act of violence against the self“. In the past I would have agreed whole heartedly with the messages behind these sentiments.
Comparison to others is something I struggle with on a daily basis. And I think a lot of you do to. We compare our bodies, our relationships, our diets, our careers, our food, our blogs, our achievements, our PRs, our strength….and on and on. You name it, we compare it. In most cases this comparison is done due to the low self-esteem and low self-worth we hold for ourselves. It only serves to perpetuate the already negative feelings we have about who we are.
Even when we do succeed, we cut ourselves down by comparing ourselves to others and reinforcing that we will never quite live up to those around us.
Forget the fact that the people we compare ourselves to are leading totally different lives in a different set of circumstances and are individually unique in their own ways. We still feel the need to meet their standards and emulate them. Especially if we regard them as some how higher or better than ourselves.
On the surface, comparison seems like a pretty bad side-effect of being human. But I am here today to argue the potential good in comparison. For most of my life I’ve let comparison hold me back, shut me down, and make me overall feel pretty crummy. However, I think by reframing how we see and use comparison in our lives, we can make it have a more positive presence.
So first, what is comparison?
By definition it’s…
the considering of two things with regard to some characteristic that is common or uncommon to both
Simple and harmless, right? Comparison on its own does not come with all the stigma and heavy emotion we’ve placed on it as a society. Comparing yourself is a natural part of being human. We see things and because we are analytical beings we start to notice the similarities and differences between them. It’s not the act of comparison that harms us, but our reactions to and the thoughts we have behind the comparisons.
Comparison is seen as such a bad thing because we often attach emotions and values about our own self-worth to our comparisons with others. Instead of just acknowledging the similarities or differences, we dwell on them and let them influence the way we feel about ourselves.
The problem with basing our entire self-worth on comparison to others is that we’ll never be satisfied. We can never be anyone else but ourselves, so the standards we are trying to achieve for ourselves can never be attained. Again, it’s not the comparison in itself that’s bad, but the feelings we get because of our own insecurities, our ego, and our perfectionist tendencies.
When we’re insecure, we use comparison to constantly cast judgement on ourselves. We are never good enough, strong enough, successful enough, etc. Our confidence fluctuates based on those around us, when it should be based on the fact that we are innately good people and have a lot going for us.
Like I said, I don’t think comparison has to be all bad. In fact, I think there are a few ways comparison can work in our favor…
Comparison can inspire
If you surround yourself with people you aspire to be more like, you’ll work to better yourself in new ways you never considered before. Of course you can’t change you are as a person, but you can change your actions based on what you see and like in others. In this way, comparison drives positive change. When you look to those around you as positive role models, you’re prompted to work harder to achieve your own successes. Remember, it’s not about changing you but changing your actions in your own unique way. We all have our own unique journey’s so respect the fact that yours will be different from others.
Comparison can help you see the good in others and in yourself
Filling your life with good people who are living life to the fullest, can help you have a more optimistic world view. When we see good things happening to those around us, we should try to feel happy for them instead of jealous or envious. By actively trying to see the good in people and acknowledge their successes from a place of compassion, we in turn will be better, happier people overall. Being able to identify the good in other people from a non-judgemental place makes you more open-minded and helps you learn about the different types of people there are in the world. When you can identify good qualities in other people, you’re more easily able to acknowledge them in yourself.
Comparison can help you set goals
Other people’s success doesn’t threaten yours. In fact, it can bolster it. Seeing others succeed or achieve can help you envision what you want for your own future, while envy and competition hinder your ability to set goals and achieve them. They only serve to stand in the way of the progress and hold you back in a negative way. By comparing your situation or yourself to others, you can reevaluate your own standards and values as a person. Learning from what others are doing may help you more clearly see the picture of what type of life you want to lead.
Like other hard to deal with aspects of being human, comparison is inevitable. The best thing you can do is to try to stop viewing it as a negative and begin to see it as a potential ally.
Above all, have compassion for yourself. If you find yourself comparing, do it without judgements attached. Compare but don’t compete. Life is not a race and no one can be the best at everything. Acknowledge that some people will be ‘better’ than you in some things and ‘worse’ than you at others. Don’t place unrealistic demands on yourself…especially for things you can’t control like appearance. Use comparison in your favor. Note the differences and leverage them in a way to learn something as opposed to berating yourself for not measuring up.
I know it’s easier said than done, but I hope that by putting this little thoughts into your heads that they might begin stick. Maybe in your next fit of comparison, you’ll remember that it can be a good thing and you’ll be able to reframe the situation into a positive experience of growth.
Just a little thinking out loud…. 🙂
Do you compare yourself to others?
What are your thoughts on using comparison in a positive way?
Tell me one thing you LOVE about yourself!
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