“Comparison is the death of joy.” — Mark Twain
How often do you compare yourself to others? More importantly, how does it feel when you do?
Comparing ourselves to others is a common practice. This type of behavior begins in early childhood as a way of learning how to gain the acceptance and approval from our loved ones. We may compare ourselves to someone else, or to a standard we have set for ourselves. We may even compare ourselves to ourselves, wishing we were more like who we used to be, or like some imagined version of who we could be.
Either way, if we aren’t accepting ourselves the way we currently are, we pay a price. There is a cost every time we put our worth on the line to be measured. Every time we doubt ourselves and wish to be different than we are, we chip away at the important relationship we have with ourselves. Bit by bit, comparison has a way of clouding our view and weakening our inner bond.
Comparing ourselves to others is entirely different from being inspired by others. When we are inspired by someone, we see value in what that person is offering the world. Witnessing their gift enriches our lives and lifts us up. When we are inspired by someone, we have a sense of joy and admiration for another human being. When we are inspired, we are motivated to create more happiness in our lives, but it doesn’t come with a cost of hurting ourselves or the other person.
When we compare ourselves to others, we are usually doing one of two things. We are either beating ourselves up for not being like someone else — for not achieving what they have achieved — or we are beating them up because it makes them and the gift they are sharing seem inferior. If that person is knocked down a bit, then we gain a (very temporary) feeling of superiority that masks our insecurity.
I have learned that comparison is a powerful gauge for how I am feeling about myself. If my reaction to someone’s success is immediate joy and admiration, I know I am feeling confident, happy with my life and on my truest path. If, on the other hand, I immediately think about my shortcomings or failures, I am reminded I need to check in with myself. The same holds true when I find myself minimizing another person’s success. I use that feeling as a strong indicator that I need to point the finger inward, perform more self-care, and build myself up.
When we find ourselves in these negative spaces, it is never truly about the other person. It has to do with how secure we are with ourselves, and how connected we are to our truth.
There is enough room on this planet for everyone to shine their light bright and experience joy. Happiness and fulfillment are not reserved for a select few. There is no happiness quota that means one person’s success endangers another’s chance to experience similar success and joy. When we follow our own joy and accept ourselves right now, we won’t look to be more like another person and less like ourselves. When we give ourselves permission to cherish our own personal gift and light, the need to compare shows up less and less.
Here are a few of my favorite practices that help me let go of my measuring stick and embrace who I am. If they resonate with where you are on your journey, give them a try.
1) Stay in Your Car
When you are distracted and worried about how you measure up to others, you step out of the driver’s seat of your own journey. Focus on staying in your car and on your path. Give your fellow passengers a honk and a wave. Encourage them and give them space to be on their path. Let them go ahead if that feels right. Life isn’t a race, nobody departs this world with a first place ribbon. Stay in your car and enjoy your journey — that is your golden ticket.
2) Build Yourself Up
Be kind to yourself and have some fun changing your thoughts and words. If you find you are beating up on yourself or on another person, don’t use these experiences to judge yourself and feel worse. Instead, use your experiences and self-reflection to say something different moving forward. Make a new choice to build yourself up.
When you are out of your element and feel uncomfortable or insecure, treat yourself the way you would treat a young child learning something new for the first time. Encourage and comfort yourself as you learn how to build yourself up. Before you know it, it will become more natural to let go of comparison in exchange for accepting yourself as you are right now.
Celebrate where you are in this moment. You don’t need to have a grand accomplishment or reason. The very fact you are here, alive on a human journey, is the accomplishment worthy of celebrating. While you are at it, celebrate others too. Give them a high five for being awesome just as they are.
Spread your acceptance and love of humanity every chance you get. We are all in this together, there is no need to compare. We all suffer, we all triumph and the messy, blissful journey we are all currently on is the reason for celebration.
Measuring sticks are good for one thing: to help you remember how far you have come and how amazing you have always been.
This article was adapted from Emily Madill’s book, ‘Fall in Love With Your Life, One Week at a Time’.
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