When I was a kid and a young adult, the scope for comparison was limited to you and the people around you.
- Family members
Comparisons happened most often between my cousin and me. She was an only child. I was not, but my brothers were a decade-plus older than me, so in many ways, I felt like an only child too. As a result, we clung to each other and built a bond that was as close to sisterhood as we could get.
We were together as often as we could be. We constantly begged our parents for sleepovers and playdates during summer, holiday breaks and any weekends we could get.
All that time together made the opportunities for comparison endless and more likely. Soon others began to compare us and sometimes, we compared ourselves.
For example, when she was complimented and I wasn’t, I sometimes wondered what I was lacking. I think she felt the same way too. But, that feeling typically didn't’ last long. There were no constant reminders of what was said. No one was holding up pictures for us to stare at in constant critical evaluation mode.
Things are different in today’s world. The potential for comparison is exponentially greater. The Internet and social media have turned our phones into an arena for limitless comparisons that we carry around and stare at throughout the day.
Even though we can choose to turn away, it’s hard to do so. So we beat our self-esteems down to a pulp with swipe after swipe through picture after picture of our “friends”. We pass judgment on ourselves with little context or insight into the reality of other’s lives. We do this with only a snapshot moment as our evidence of their truth.
Don’t compare your beginnings to someone else’s middle. — Tim Hiller, ‘Strive: Life is Short, Pursue What Matters’
Only one type of comparison truly matters. Only one can do anything to move your life in a positive direction. It requires looking into a screen of sorts. Not the kind that reveals others, the kind that shows you yourself.
The true measure of your current self comes through personal review and reflection. The mirror (both literally and figuratively) is the place to start.
It is when you lose sight of yourself, that you lose your way. To keep your truth in sight you must keep yourself in sight …
― C. JoyBell C.
How to make shifting from comparison to personal reflection a habit.
Unless you’re at a carnival funhouse, the mirror doesn’t lie. This is true for both physical reflection and mental ones.
Sometimes what you see can be a harsh reality to face, but if you approach it using these three habits, you can turn it into a path to personal growth.
Personal reflection can generate positive growth in three ways.
- Self-admiration (How are you valuable?)
- Self-seeking (How can you grow?)
- Self-comparison (How have you already grown?)
Let’s explore how you can practice these and incorporate them into your habitual thought patterns.
Self Admiration — Celebrate the things you admire about yourself (mental and physical).
Comparisons often lead to self-judgment. You only see what’s “wrong” with you and not what’s right.
Here’s a physical example…
You see a picture of a model wearing a sweater and a pair of “skinny” jeans and you think…
“I’m 20 pounds overweight and I hate how I look in jeans.”
This is where most of us stop, but we don’t have to. We can choose to give recognition to what our bodies can do now.
I am also strong. This body takes me where I need to go every day and allows me to do great things for myself, my family, and my community.
Now here’s a mental example…
I’m struggling to learn this new information. It’s taking longer than I thought it would. I’ll never finish.
How about this instead?
This may be challenging for me, but it’s not impossible. If I stick with it, it will get easier over time and I’ll finish this.
Monitor the progression of your physical and mental improvements.
If you look back on your life, you’re bound to find progressions. The problem is, progressions aren’t what we usually look for when we look back. Our habit is to reminisce and wish for someone we once were or regret the choices we made.
When mistakes are over magnified, you can’t see the wins. And if you can’t see them, you soon forget them. That’s how your life becomes narrowly and negatively defined.
10 years ago I was 40 pounds overweight, experiencing unexplained back and neck pain, and feeling very uncomfortable in my own skin. I was often irritable and sad. I would spend weekends on the couch feeling unmotivated, unfulfilled, and dissatisfied with the state of my life.
Today the weight is gone, the pain is gone, I don’t have weekend pity parties, and I’m a fitness instructor and healthy habits coach.
I had to accept who I was and let go of how she came to be. It was the only way to become the person I am now and the only way I’ll get to who I want to be in the future. This is true for you too.
Remind yourself that your only competition is you.
In most cases, it’s easier to see other people’s attributes and hard to see our own. So when you compare yourself to others, you’ll always come up short.
Don’t keep doing this to yourself. You can never match someone else’s shine because you aren’t supposed to.
If you want to be better than someone, work on being a better version of YOU with each passing day. Do this and you’ll be amazed at how beautiful your own light is.
This is what competing with myself looks like in my life right now.
I put off pursuing my dream to be a writer for many years. Now I’m doing it every day. I don’t write and publish as much as I’d like to yet, but I’m far beyond where I was with my writing last year at this time.
One thing’s for sure. I’ll never get to where I want to be with my writing if I don’t work my way through the level I’m at today! I’m happy with knowing that I’m progressing! And with time and practice, my productivity and skill level will increase.
So don’t hate where you are because you aren’t where someone else is. Keep pushing so you are further along each day.
Let’s sum it up.
Comparision is a great approach for apples to apples but a detrimental one when applied to two or more human beings. The only fair comparison is between you of the past and you of today. The only purpose of this comparison is to drive for the changes needed to create tomorrow’s version of you.
Remember these guidelines when performing a self-evaluation. Make the following your new comparison habits.
- See your value.
- Seek growth opportunities.
- Recognize how you’ve already grown.
Doing this will allow you to celebrate the great things about others without dimming your light. We all shine brighter and more colorfully when our lights are free to shine together and in their unique hues.
Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” — Coco Chanel
Coach Leslie is a fit mindset and habits coach. She helps her clients build healthy mindsets so they can achieve mind, body, and spiritual fitness.