Have you ever felt like you’re not as far along in life as you should be? Do you ever wish you were a little thinner, blonder, taller, or nicer? Is it possible comparison is to blame?
Comparison is a natural skill we use to help us make decisions. Imagine a trip to the grocery store without the ability to compare. I bet most of us would never find our way back out. I know I wouldn’t.
If we aren’t careful though, this skill can hurt us. It can make us feel like we’re not good enough. It can fester into fear that holds us back from fulfilling our true potential. Comparison can steal our joy.
A Story about Comparison
A friend told me a great story about comparison recently. I thought it did a great job showing how comparison works and how it affects ALL of us.
While on a flight, my friend looked over and noticed that the woman sitting next to her was wearing the same bracelet. She immediately noticed how much shinier the other woman’s bracelet was. My friend felt a little ashamed that she didn’t take time to polish her bracelet before the trip.
Later in the flight, the two women began talking. My friend then mentioned the other woman’s bracelet. The woman said, “Yes, I noticed that too. I couldn’t stop wondering how you keep yours of shiny.”
Yup! They had the exact same bracelet on and both women thought the other woman’s was better.
How Comparison Can be Harmful
We live in a world where everyone has the ability filter their lives and only show their highlight reel on social media. Our feeds are filled with new houses, fancy cars, dream vacations, perfect date nights, and star athlete children. Everywhere we look we’re bombarded with perfection.
Of course, we know that in reality, no one’s life is perfect. But that doesn’t stop our minds from getting stuck in comparison. We end up feeling like we’re behind or not good enough.
Let’s start by addressing the feeling that we’re behind. First, understand that we’re all on our own journey. You’re where you need to be right now. Where you perceive someone else is in life should be of no concern to you. For every person you feel is ahead of you, there’s someone who looks at you and feels the same.
For example, one of the things I’m working on this year is to be more confident. Not necessarily outwardly, but quieting that voice that tells me that I can’t or that it’s not good enough. As you can imagine, I was shocked when someone described me as confident recently. It reminded me that we’re all at different points on our journey. It also helped me recognize how far I’ve come.
Comparison can cause other harmful emotions. Comparing what we don’t have to those who have more can lead to feelings of envy. Comparing our level of success to those just starting out can cause us to feel prideful. Comparing how much further we have to go can crush our dreams and prevent us from fulfilling our potential.
How to Use Comparison for Good
As I mentioned, we’re all at different points on our journey. Someone will always be ahead of you and someone will always be behind. So why not embrace the power of mentorship?
Rather than compare, become the student. Those who have gone before us have lessons to share. Look to them as mentors and role models. Then take the initiative to help someone who is where you were a few years ago. Pay it forward and let go of the need to compare.
Next, instead of measuring yourself to everyone else in the room, look at where you are today versus a year ago. Focus on your growth. Celebrate how far you’ve come, not where you need to go to be like someone else.
On that note, continue to work on being comfortable with who you are. Whatever it is that you want is great. You don’t need to justify it or explain it away.
This is probably the strangest comparison that I’ve encountered. For example, I always tell my husband that our next house will only have one bedroom. Maybe slightly larger overall, but way fewer rooms. Then I see someone post pictures of their new mansion or beautifully restored Victorian and I feel house shame. If you know me, you know that I don’t want to deal with a giant house. But somehow comparison gets in the way.
Comparison is something that never goes away. But we can learn to recognize it and use it for good instead of letting it make us feel bad. After all, it’s about progress, not perfection.