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    The upside of comparison


    Comparing ourselves to others is a natural human tendency and while comparisons can often feel negative, they can also motivate us to create positive change in our lives.

    We know that what we see on social media is a fraction of the truth, yet we don’t always acknowledge that behind the thriving creative business, the happy family photographs and the exotic travel shots are the same kinds of adversity, hardship and everyday challenges that all of us face. And while it’s not something we view in a feed, we also know that deep down, the people we follow share insecurities and self-doubt, just as we do.

    Despite the fact that it’s challenging to silence the voice inside us that constantly makes comparisons, these feelings can also help to move us in a positive direction.

    Notice and name what you’re feeling

    Firstly, when you find yourself comparing, it’s important to notice and name the emotions you’re feeling. While negative emotions such as envy or jealousy often make us feel uncomfortable, not acknowledging those emotions can leave us out of touch with what we really want.

    Try to accept these feelings as a natural part of the human experience, and soften into them. As Tara Brach says in her book Radical Acceptance, making room for all of our emotions, even the difficult ones, is the first step to feeling okay about ourselves.

    What are those feelings telling trying to tell you?

    Next time you notice yourself comparing, ask yourself, “What are these feelings trying to tell me?” Very often our comparisons give us a clue about what we’d like to change in our lives.

    If you find yourself feeling envious of someone else’s career or lifestyle, take time to reflect on the specific aspects that seem most appealing. By taking a closer look, you may be able to identify the root of your envy. For example, you may discover that you’re not actually envious of the career or lifestyle itself, but rather of the autonomy or flexibility it provides. Or you may realise that you’re envious of someone’s ability to take risks and pursue their passions.

    Once you’ve identified what’s driving your envy, start to think about how to incorporate those elements into your own life. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to completely overhaul your career or lifestyle, but it may involve making small changes that align more closely with your values and goals. For example, if you envy someone’s ability to travel frequently, you might be motivated to start planning a trip to a nearby destination or saving for a longer journey.

    Look for similarities

    When we constantly compare ourselves to others, we tend to focus on the ways in which we differ from them. This can create feelings of isolation and insecurity, as we begin to believe that our experiences and emotions are unique or abnormal. By actively seeking out similarities, we build a greater sense of connection and belonging.

    Think about the challenges and struggles that are common to all of us. Regardless of what we see on social media, acknowledge that everyone experiences moments of self-doubt or insecurity, regardless of their accomplishments or outward appearance. Remembering these shared experiences makes us feel less alone in our struggles.

    Acknowledge what’s going well in your life

    When we constantly compare ourselves to others, we tend to focus on what we lack or what we perceive as our shortcomings. This can create feelings of inadequacy and discontentment, leading us to overlook our own strengths and accomplishments.

    Take time to reflect on your successes, no matter how small. Include any personal obstacles you’ve overcome, goals you’ve achieved and fears you’ve faced in your lifetime.

    Make a note of your innate strengths including the skills that come naturally to you, the tasks you enjoy most and anything you feel passionate about.

    Reflect on the relationships you value, the people who inspire you and the role models you’re grateful for.

    Take steps to create change in your life

    Spend some time clarifying your personal values and consider whether you’re living in alignment with those values.

    Create a clear vision for your ideal life and set a few measurable goals and action steps that will move you in a direction that is purposeful and fulfilling.

    If, after completing these steps, you still find that social media is a source of negative comparison, limit your exposure or unfollow accounts that make you feel inferior. If you have relationships in the real world that make you feel inadequate or insecure, consider limiting your time with those individuals or having an open conversation about your needs and your feelings.

    Remember, your journey is your own, and your path to personal growth will look different from anyone else’s. As Brené Brown says, ‘Stay in your own lane. Comparison kills creativity and joy.’

    Posted in: Self-belief
    Kate James

    About the author

    Kate James is an author, coach and mindfulness teacher. She works with female leaders and business owners to help them clarify their values and strengths and discover a mindset that allows them to live confident, purposeful lives.