How to stop the destructive cycle of self-comparison.
February 3, 2021
Self-comparison is rife in our society today and it put me in mind of an old fashioned word. Covet. As a word, it’s one that has fallen out of common use over the past 100 years. Typically you would maybe relate it back to the Old Testament and the 10 Commandments; ‘Thou shalt not covet.’ But as a word, it has not lost its meaning or relevancy for today’s society.
To covet: to want to have something very much, especially something that belongs to someone else. Cambridge Dictionary.
We may not think of coveting other people’s possessions, personal attributes, or successes as a terribly bad thing. After all, we live in a society driven by materialism, success, money, body image, etc. We may argue that to covet what others have simply spurs us on to greater heights of power and influence amongst our peers and professionals. This, however, as most will discover along this selfish path, is simply a path to self-destruction. What we have will never be enough. Our greed for bigger and better things, things seemingly out of our reach or unattainable, will consume us so that we cannot appreciate anything we do have. The cycle of self-comparison is devastating. It destroys happiness, steals joy, ruins contentment, crushes self-esteem, and leaves us feeling anxious, depressed, and lonely.
How do we stop the destructive cycle of self-comparison in our lives?
There is hope! We can live beautiful, content, and productive lives without the need to compare ourselves to others.
Let me give you a few tips…
Stop comparing your garden to your neighbours
You know the phrase ‘the grass is always greener on the other side?’ How often is that actually true? Exactly! Almost never! We take surreptitious looks over the fence, catch glimpses of what looks like the best grass since grass grew. But when we finally get that full view, we notice that there are bald spots, moss, dandelions galore. Our limited view fooled us into thinking the whole lawn was immaculate. But it wasn’t.
So often, especially with social media, we are shown only what people want us to see; their best side in every picture, a polished and smiling child, a living room worthy of Ideal Home. We only show what we want others to see. Our best attributes and assets. And yet, despite this, we believe that these people are somehow like this 24/7, that they look airbrushed all the time or have the best figure or skin always, that their home is clean and tidy and oh so perfect all the time. It’s a lie. Every single person on this planet has good days and bad days, wonderful moments and dreadful ones too.
Stop idealising and idolising others. You only bring yourself down and make yourself feel inadequate. Limit your time on social media if you find yourself wishing you had this or wanting what so and so has. It’s a poison that can destroy your happiness. Look around you, find the good in what you see. You’ll feel better for it!
We cannot look after our self by constantly comparing ourselves to others. When we put our focus on what other people are doing, saying, wearing, buying, we take the focus off of our own path. This is where the choking weeds start to take over; weeds of envy, self-doubt, bitterness, sadness, anger. We become a tangled mess of self-comparing emptiness and our own life is stalled. We cannot walk any further along our own path because the weeds we have allowed to grow have blocked our progress.
Turn your attention back on to yourself. You are on your own path and must make your own decisions that best suit your circumstances. You will only find inner peace and happiness when you trust yourself and live your own life. Don’t be like someone else. Be like you!
Personality begins where comparison leaves off. Be unique…memorable…confident. Be proud. Shannon L. Alder
It’s a cycle: past, present, future
Remember that life is a cycle. We each have a past, a present and a future and how we view these stages in our life can impact our ability to deal with and make good choices.
So often when we are trapped in the destructive cycle of self-comparison, we can be shackled to our past; past decisions that we regret, failed attempts, painful memories that prevent us from moving forward. The past is in the past for a reason. It has gone, it cannot be moved, altered, or revisited. We need to accept what cannot be changed, forgive ourselves, learn from our mistakes, and face forwards, with strength and hope in a better tomorrow.
We also need to take an honest look at where we are in the moment; accept what is, not how we wish things were, and be okay with that. Accept what cannot be changed, make plans for what can, and then follow through. By doing so, by not coveting what others have, we can make better choices about our own life. Move on from a place of acceptance, peace, and hope.
You’re only part way through your story. You have no idea what your future holds for you or what fabulous twists you will encounter along the way. Yes there may be things that you’d like to achieve that you haven’t yet, but who’s to say you won’t? You may even exceed them! Or accomplish something entirely different that is so much better than what you originally wanted. Look forward with anticipation for what YOUR life will be. No-one else can live it but you! So you might as well enjoy it!
Beat self-comparison with gratitude
If you’re stuck in a cycle of self-comparison you will have lost the ability to express gratitude. When we fail to see what we do already have – whether that be physical attributes like health, a home, family, stability; personal attributes like being a good homemaker, or strengths in particular subjects or behaviours – when we fail to recognise and be grateful for these things and only covet what we see in others, we deprive ourselves of inner peace and personal acceptance. We show to ourselves and those around us that we place our value below others; not a selfless, sacrificial action, but a demeaning rejection of our own value. This is such a destructive and detrimental attitude to have, especially if we have a young family whom we are tasked with raising into confident individuals!
Gratitude can be lost, too, if we are obsessing over where we ‘should’ be in life. I’m bad for this. I see friends and family in stages of life that I had imagined myself to be in by now. But I need to remind myself that my life is not their life. We have followed different routes, made different decisions, dealt with varying problems and experiences. We need to see the full picture before we have any right to be comparing ourselves to others and saying ‘I should be there by now’.
You are not “behind” in life, your journey is just different. Instagram:@patrick.ojb
Remember too, that there is a season for everything in your life. We cannot force or change the seasons. they will come and go as they have always done. Read more about this in my blog Changing Seasons.
We are all equal
Breaking that cycle of self-comparison can be challenging. It requires a shift in mindset, one that has often been deeply rooted within us without us realising it. It can therefore be helpful to remember that we are all equal. What I mean is that we all go through the same fundamental stages in life. We are all born, we all age, we endure sickness, and eventually, we all must die. Regardless of our success and how much we have acquired in life, every person must go through certain rites of passage. We enter this world with nothing and we leave with nothing, so focus on the important things; forging life-long relationships, being kind, standing up for injustice, loving yourself fully, warts and all, and finding your purpose in life and following it passionately.
We can overcome the cycle of self-comparison when we redirect the energy we lose into something more beneficial and which feeds us spiritually. When we turn from selfish ambition and covetousness, we can learn to love ourselves better and look after others, in love, too. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses, yes, but we can rejoice in our own individuality, and that of others, when we truly let go of the shackles of self-comparison.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:2-4 NIV
Take the first step
Is self-comparison of others something you really struggle with? Are you not moving forwards in the way you’d like? Please take encouragement and hope from this blog, and remember, lasting change begins with the first step. We could all do better at recognising the gifts we have been blessed with and cherish them all the more for their uniqueness in our lives. Embrace you. There’s only one!
If you’d like someone to chat to about your battles with self-comparison we’d be only too happy to help. For more information, please head to our Personal Coaching page on our Mind, Body, and Soul website.
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