There’s a play park close to our house where I take the boys most days.
The usual swings, slides and benches to sit on. There are bins for the rubbish and slightly wonky goalposts for the football players.
Picture the scene.
Another mum with her kids walks in tentatively. We don’t look directly at each other at first, though casually glance, hoping not to be noticed by the other.
I’m listening to how she speaks to her daughter, intrigued by what she says and her way of speaking.
She’s looking at what I’m dressed in if I had to make a guess (I catch her looking me up and down several times).
I try a smile, but don’t get one back.
How many other mums are experiencing the exact same thing I think to myself?
Comparing Yourself To Others
It’s something that everyone falls into. Men, women, mums, girls, boys. (OK, maybe not dogs.) But at some point, we all compare ourselves to others.
True story. Comparing ourselves ends in tears pretty much every time.
But according to experts, it’s part of our nature as humans to compare, as Rebecca Sparkes (psychotherapist) explains. “It was a primitive way to keep ourselves safe.
We needed to constantly evaluate our peers—are they better than us?” (Vogue)
Nowadays, the fears around being ‘kicked out’ of the pack as it were are not so valid (which is why the need to compare came about in the first place).
Yet the primitive part of our brain still cheats on us, permitting this spiral of comparison. Which always ends in the worst thing being that we appear inadequate and less than the person in question.
Why does comparing ourselves affect our self-esteem? Because the reason we compare is that we’re not so sure of ourselves in the first place. We all have fears, doubts, and limiting beliefs.
The comparison acts in a roundabout way to reinforce a negative thinking loop.
And the brain defaults far more often to negative thinking than positive without us being at fault (i.e. we don’t do it on purpose, it just happens that way)
Now in the age of social media, comparison happens soooooooo much more often than not. It’s just too easy to scroll on the sofa and look at glammed, filtered photos and question why we don’t look that way.
And this is something you must be aware of. That comparing yourself to someone’s highlight reel is a) totally inaccurate and b) never going to serve you well.
Social comparison theory is a term founded in the 1950s by social psychologist Leon Festinger.
In it, he describes that, “We engage in this comparison process as a way of establishing a benchmark by which we can make accurate evaluations of ourselves.”
In other words, we don’t know ourselves outside of weighing ourselves up to someone else. It sounds crazy, but how else can we benchmark ourselves if we don’t have someone to compare to?
Ah, now, we’re getting to the magic stuff.
The key goal here is NEVER to allow yourself to be defined by benchmarking yourself to others. Never never, never! This must stop.
How to stop it is to radically shift your way of seeing yourself from square 1.
Start from the beginning (ie. start TODAY). The best way is to mentally rub an eraser on the past and start from now.
A little visualisation of yourself doing this (eraser in hand) or journaling to yourself about putting the past behind you works wonders.
Take charge by setting your own goals from this moment on. Setting goals will help you develop yourself outside of other people. Spend a good hour or so with yourself, getting clear on what you want for yourself.
The important things to ask are:
What’s important to me?
What are my values?
What do I actually want?
How can I make it happen?
By taking control and having set goals, you’ll be well on your way to reducing any comparisons you’re making, and feeling much more liberated and empowered from within.
Another key tool for reducing the need to compare others is to compare yourself to yourself! List out all the achievements in your life so far. What have you accomplished that you’re proud of?
Reinforcing where you’ve come from goes a long way to stop the need for comparison. Simply because it’s an ego boost – acknowledging your own accomplishments is a wonder practice.
You’ll feel great once you’ve done this exercise, thereby reducing the desire to compare.
Taking time every day to work on yourself is key to minimising how frequently you compare yourself to others. Personal growth is a wide topic, and this post goes into it much deeper.
But for valuable information on yourself, start asking why?
Why am I self-conscious?
Why am I comparing myself?
Why am I feeling less than her?
Why am I not enough?
Why are the versions of other people I see better than me?
When asking why and answering the question truthfully, you bring yourself out of the autopilot way of being and into constructive, intention-driven behaviour. When you know why, you can do something about it.
Gratitude is an incredible thing to feel more positive and upbeat but in terms of reducing comparison, it works amazingly.
The reason is, that you practise gratitude for what is in your life. You don’t tend to be grateful for other people’s lives and how they live.
It’s all about you! So this is where a gratitude practise can help you zone out of other people and zone into yourself.
Your Best Version
Furthermore, to reduce comparing yourself is to ask, ‘What does the best version of me look like?’
Spend time writing down your thoughts and thinking hard about this question.
How would the optimal version of you act and behave? This will seriously kick any comparisons you make into the dust! And prevent the need to compare any further.
We all want to be our best selves. It’s what drives us to find meaning in life. What kicks us into action when we go on a diet, or want to get healthier.
Growth of ourselves is essential to true happiness – to feeling accomplished and like we have meaning in our existence.
Whereby when we put the power into the hands of someone else, other people’s lives tend to take over our own.
When we believe something that we create in our heads from comparing ourselves, it’s a recipe for mental health issues. Because the only person you ought to compare yourself to is who YOU were yesterday.
The next time you scroll on social media platforms, wishing you looked like this person or had the charisma of that person, STOP. Catch yourself, take a deep breath and drag yourself away from that screen.
Come back to the goals you set for yourself and your life. These are your rock to return to when you need accountability. They will never fail you!
The goals will reinforce your sense of self, and the more frequently you interrupt the habit of scrolling and comparing, instead coming back to your goals, the less hold comparison – making will have over you.
You’ll get to a stage where you’re so confident in yourself and the positive changes in your life that you’ll no longer compare yourself.
And I can hand on my heart say that from my own experience. I no longer compare myself to other mums, having made some firm personal goals to myself.
I no longer compare myself to other businesswomen or other healthcare professionals.
Because I know I am on a unique journey, and the need to compare myself no longer enters my mind.
I hope you find this post informative and helpful, and that you feel inspired to no longer compare yourself and respect your self-worth. Constant comparison does you no good whatsoever!
These tools may help you even more in your fight against comparison making.
There is one tiny weeny clause here which comes from comparing yourself to someone else. The comparison can be used as a form of motivation if used in the right frame of mind.
If you’re inspired by what someone else is doing and keen to follow suit, then this is only a good thing!
So be aware that comparison making can be somewhat positive, but ONLY if the intention behind it is to improve your own life and not bring yourself down.
If you love this post, please share it. And this post is what I recommend you read to reinforce good feelings in yourself.