Comparing to others

All around us are images of people doing wonderful things and looking fabulous doing it and while at times this can be very motivating and inspiring, at other times this can also be disheartening. One of the things I’ve repeatedly noticed is the tendency to compare ourselves to those around us.  Invariably we are extremely hard on ourselves and chastise our performance, our appearance or view ourselves unfavourably.  This inevitably leads to us feeling worse and on it goes in a downward spiral.  I’ve seen this in every facet in life from parenting to exercise to how we order our coffee!  It’s very sad to me how rampant this is, and how common it is from very intelligent, accomplished people.  Often the stories we tell ourselves in these situations aren’t very positive or uplifting.  Let’s change that!

A dangerous game

It’s a dangerous game to compare yourself to anyone else because you aren’t seeing the entire person.  You’re only seeing them for an hour in an exercise class for example and maybe they had a full night’s sleep the night before, had a terrific breakfast and are feeling extra strong and peppy.  We all have our good and not so good days after all. I’ve seen so many examples of this vicious cycle and it usually leaves both parties not really feeling great.  Time and again I see the most amazing, accomplished people taking themselves down for not measuring up.  Usually in the situation I also see the person to whom they are comparing themselves leave feeling not so great either.  Most of us don’t relish the thought of our light shining over someone else’s so as to make them feel bad.  We want to do well but not at the expense of someone else so there might be an additional negative consequence that we dim that light on purpose so as not to blind or overshadow.  A path to whole-hearted happiness this is not.

Who do we compare ourselves to?

It’s all very well and good to say you shouldn’t compare yourselves to others but that leaves the question well just who should we compare ourselves to?  What standard of measurement can we use to assess how we’re doing?  The solution I would offer is how about comparing ourselves to us!  Maybe the best version of us, or a version of ourselves that we aspire to, believe we can attain and seems realistic in the context of our lives.  I’m proposing that by doing this we would feel better about ourselves and we wouldn’t feel the need to put down others or ourselves.  I’m even suggesting that we would get better overall results because we have the benefit of the complete context.  We are indeed comparing apples to apples when we use ourselves as measuring sticks, not some random person next to us who seems to be so much stronger, smarter and better than we are.  Set goals based on where you want to be starting from exactly where you are at now.  Striving to be the best possible version of yourself and the best part is that you get to define what that is, what it looks like and how you’ll get there.  Then maybe you’ll notice all the little progressive steps that you make along the way and celebrate them.  Best of all you don’t have to look around anymore to notice what other people are doing, you can just focus 100% of your attention on yourself.

Take the challenge

So, take the challenge and the next time you catch yourself noticing someone else’s greatness, stop, take a step back and re-evaluate where you are.  Then decide what you like about where you are and what you want to change, for yourself.  Make a plan to get there based on your own capability and capacity.  As you progress, notice how much stronger you are now and celebrate it.  If you stumble it’s ok, it’s all part of the journey and you’re the boss.  You decide how you will handle it.  Just imagine if we lived in a world where we were all trying to do this, where we were all striving to be the best possible version of ourselves we could be and the only measuring stick we used was our own.


‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’

The Positive Psychology People is co-founded and sponsored
by Lesley Lyle and Dan Collinson,
Directors of Positive Psychology Learning and authors of the
8-week online Happiness Course


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