Have you been struck by comparisonitis?
Comparisonitis has been sweeping through society, and it’s reached rising levels of contagion in the age of social media. But what is it?
Comparisonitis has you constantly comparing your life, your work and your success with other people. Their lives may seem much more exciting. Their achievements more incredible. Their success, on another level.
It’s natural to want to do some degree of comparison. It’s a way of checking in with where we are. But, unchecked, it’s bad for our mental health and potentially bad for our relationships because it can lead to destructive thoughts and behaviours.
Comparisonitis gets into your cells and kills your joy, your self esteem and motivation. It can also stir up uncomfortable feelings like jealousy, resentment and bitterness like a raging temperature that won’t go away. You know you shouldn’t be feeling these things, and that just adds a sense of shame to it all.
So what can you do?
The good news is, we’ll be sharing some effective treatments for comparisonitis that don’t involve any needles, syrup or adverse side effects.
Why do we compare ourselves?
We use comparison as a form of orientation, a way of knowing where we are in the world in relation to other people.
Our natural urge to compare begins in childhood, particularly if you have siblings or very close friends who you see often.
Picture this. There’s a birthday and you’re gathered with other children to celebrate. There are balloons and presents and party poppers. Out comes the cake. You all sing ‘happy birthday’ and the candles are blown out. Then, it’s time to cut up the cake.
You’re handed a colourful plate with a piece of sponge and with brightly coloured icing. It looks delicious and you feel happy. Your plastic spoon is out ready to tuck in…
Until, wait a minute…
You look around, comparing what you have.
Someone else has a bigger piece than you. Hey! That’s not fair. Why do they deserve that? They’re at the same party. They’re the same age. Suddenly, your delicious piece of cake doesn’t look as nice. It’s ruined by the taste of jealousy, by the unfairness.
You’re now judging what you have not by whether it satisfies you but by how it compares.
Comparison crops up in other forms as we grow older. In school, our performance is compared to others in terms of our grades or how we do on sports day or whether a painting we’ve created makes it up onto the wall. We become more fixated on how good we are compared with others over how satisfied with what we have done.
We also compare the possessions we have, how we look, the cars we go on to drive, the houses we go on to buy.
Healthy vs unhealthy comparison.
A way to spot comparison at play, is to catch yourself wishing. You may say things like ‘I wish I was as good as…’ or ‘I wish I had that thing like that person does…’ and so on.
Comparison can also present as self pity. For example you may find yourself saying, ‘If only I had this then I could do that…’ or ‘If only I had what they have, I’d be happy too’.
Not all wishes are bad. Desires can be powerful motivators and a guide as to what we really want.
Measures can also be useful. They help us know how we’re doing. Where we’re doing well, where we need to improve. They can guide us as to where we need to invest in new skills, get more experience, put in more time and so on.
But they become unhealthy when they don’t take into consideration the whole picture. For example, when someone just starting out compares their performance to someone who’s been working hard at it for ten years. Or someone working solo on a project – like a new entrepreneur – compares their results to someone with a whole team.
Comparison is also unhealthy when the focus isn’t on what we really want but on keeping up with others. For example, someone wanting certain trainers because others have them even though it wouldn’t be what they’d choose or even though the cost of having them means they’d have to sacrifice having something they really desire.
Unhealthy comparison can lead to you doing things you don’t want to do or pursuing things that won’t bring you joy, leaving you empty and wondering why.
Comparison can also ignore our unique make up.
We can never really directly compare ourselves with anyone because we all have an original blend of experiences, skills, personality and values. Your uniqueness is what makes you an Origineur.
So, we will each always bring something different to the game. Yes, that will mean we have a unique set of challenges, but we each have a unique set of advantages too.
8 cures for comparisonitis.
Comparisonitis cannot be left unaddressed. Forgetting your originality and leaning too much on comparison can lead to a build up of anxiety, frustration, jealousy, resentment and hopelessness. You may tear yourself apart or look for faults in others to improve how you feel about yourself. Both internal and external outlets are unhealthy.
What’s needed is an effective treatment for comparisonitis.
You’ll be pleased to hear, there are 8 ‘feel good’ things you can try…
1. Know what you really want
Get in touch with who you really are and what you truly want. Get to know your values, which are core to you and your reason for living.
They’re your ‘why’.
Then make sure your goals and desires align with them.
Make sure they come from within you rather than from a fear of missing out on something or feelings of inadequacy.
2. Be realistic
Be clear on where you are now and what you should expect from yourself at this stage.
You can’t compare someone who has 10 years’ experience, or who has been building a business for decades with someone who is just starting out, for example.
Ask yourself instead, where did they start and how did they get there? Are there any lessons you could learn from them that you could apply in your own way?
When it comes to what you really want, what are the steps you need to take and how long is it realistically going to take to get there? Then take action and take comfort in knowing you are moving forward.
3. See through the filters
Another thing to be aware of is just how much other people filter their lives. Most people don’t post their bad days on social media. They don’t post photos of getting out of bed or recovering from the flu. They don’t typically put a post out showing them crying because their day is going badly or showing themselves looking awkward.
No, most people post the highlights of their lives. They post pictures of their holidays, fun times with the family, major achievements in business, and other great stuff. They usually take a photo when they’re looking good and there’s a smile on their face.
So, don’t compare your reality to the highlights of someone else’s life. Know that we’re all human. We all face challenges and struggles whether we talk about them or not. Take heart in knowing you’re not alone.
4. Embrace gratitude
It’s easy to forget the good things in our lives, especially the tiny things, like the way the sun glows on a warm day.
Regularly taking time to notice and appreciate the things you’re grateful for can help you realise how much you have in your life and can help it feel fuller.
I keep spaces in my diary to note down all the things I’m grateful for from the big things – like winning awards – to the small things, like a great conversation with a close friend.
I find this is even more helpful on a bad day. It brings things into perspective.
5. Use comparison more positively
As I mentioned earlier, comparison isn’t all bad. It can be helpful when used healthily. If you find yourself comparing yourself to someone, ask…
‘What is this telling me?’
Are your feelings guiding you just to copy or toward something you truly want?
For example, if you see someone happy in their job and you find yourself saying ‘I wish I could be as happy as that’, then maybe it’s a signal to consider doing something about it. Is it time for a change? Use it as motivation.
Just make sure that the drive is coming from within your and is aligned to your values.
6. Remember your strengths
It’s also important to remember your strengths. We all have a unique set.
You may find yourself wishing you could be ask good at something as someone else. I’d find it handy – for example – to be great at mental arithmetic and I always admire people who can. But, it’s not in my reach.
However, we all have strengths and this can be our focus. What can you do well? Also, how can you use your strengths to compensate for your weaknesses? For example, I’m great with digital technologies and am a whiz with Excel so use this to compensate for the mental maths.
Your unique set of strengths, blended with your unique personality and way of doing things gives you a unique advantage.
7. Keep a celebration jar
When you next finish some jam, marmalade or old fashioned sweeties, clean and save the jar. Because a bit of crafting can help with comparisonitis. Start by getting a piece of paper and writing down as many great things you can think of across the page, with plenty of space in between each one.
These things could be happy memories, wonderful achievements, personal strengths, things you are grateful for, and so on.
Keep going until you run out of ideas.
Now, cut up each word or phrase, roll or fold them and put them into the jar. Keep some paper and a pen next to it for when you come up with other ideas at a later date.
Then, whenever comparisonitis hits, whenever you have a bad day or whenever you’re just feeling a bit glum, dip into the jar as many times as you need to, to be reminded of how fabulous you are and that good times will come again.
8. Cheer on others
When you see other people doing well, celebrate it.
Be authentic in your support and generous with your praise. Maybe give them a shout out on social media so more people can hear about it.
When you can truly be pleased for others’ successes, you know that you are developing immunity to comparisonitis. You’re also building a community of support. It goes both ways because, when you have good things happen to you, there will be others waiting on the side lines ready to cheer for you too!
- Comparisonitis can strike when you compare your life, your work and your success with other people too much. When comparison is unhealthy, it can leave you feeling unsatisfied and can lead to destructive emotions and behaviours. This can impact both you and your relationships.
- Comparison is a natural way to orientate yourself and know where you are in relation to the world. But focusing on it too greatly, and unhealthily, can cause you to chase after things that you don’t actually want and won’t bring you joy. They may actually leave you feeling empty.
- There are 8 ‘feel good’ ways to heal from comparisonitis and all these remedies are worth a try. Experiment with them and find which ones help you best. The most important thing to remember is that you are unique and so getting to know yourself, your values and what really matters to you is the path to true satisfaction and joy in life.