Do you compare your life and your accomplishments to those of other people?
In this day and age it's harder than ever to trust your own ideas, believe in yourself, and actualize a self-directed vision.
Why? There are many forces at work in our culture that make us question whether we're measuring up. Not least of these is our consumption of social media — the never-ending digital conveyor belt of information about all the amazing things our friends and acquaintances are doing with their lives, in vivid color. Vacations, milestones, weddings, births, and promotions are artfully showcased to enviable perfection. When you're constantly confronted with semi-histrionic proclamations about the magnificence of what other people are doing, your own life can feel less-than in comparison. (Listen to “Schadenfacebook” on The Hidden Brain Podcast.)
But when you're measuring yourself by someone else's yardstick, it takes a toll. For starters, it creates anxiety and insecurity. It can also lead you to begin crafting your life and making choices specifically to garner the approval and admiration of others. When that happens, you become disconnected from your vision, your truth, and your personal power.
What Happens When You Lose Yourself
Becoming overly focused on how you compare to others makes you vulnerable to all sorts of problems.
For example, you might find it increasingly hard to make decisions without second guessing yourself. It can feel hard to persist in the face of adversity when you don't believe in yourself. When you need people to treat you a certain way so that you can feel okay about yourself, your relationships can suffer. You may feel increasingly hollow and empty as you lose touch with who you are, and what makes you authentically happy.
Worst yet, being other-focused may lead you to (ironically) become less able to create the kind of successful life you want… leading to even more anxiety and dissatisfaction with your current reality, and more dependent on the opinions of others to feel okay about yourself. (Check out “Why Gen Y Millenials Are So Unhappy” on the Wait But Why blog.)
Here's a poignant note on exactly this subject that I recently received from a listener of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast:
“Dear Dr. Lisa,
Recently I am trying to consciously make time to work on building cognitive skills and self awareness with the tips and lessons you share in your classes, blogs and podcasts, and also from feedback I get from [the coach I'm working with @ Growing Self.]
[Through my personal growth work] I found out that one of my unhealthy thinking habits is “comparing myself with others”. I was comparing myself with my boyfriend, my friends, and this was so on “auto-pilot” most of the time, I wasn't even so aware about it.
Since I could always easily find what I was lacking when I did comparisons, it brought me many problems. I was always lacking confidence, I was always seeing proof of my shortcomings and reasons about why I shouldn't/counldn't do something, and I always struggled with anxiety and uneasiness. It was most painful when I felt inferior than others in things I value most. (Being compassionate, intelligent etc.)
Also, I realized that deep in my mind I used comparisons to feel good about myself, like comparing my achievements to others' and assuring myself that I'm doing great, which is maybe not so bad and what people naturally do, but it could make me feel guilty or empty at times.
I was in this unhealthy, unhelpful place for a very long time. I'm still working on this, but I felt very liberated after I learned that these unhelpful thinking patterns can be shifted with effort to more productive ones, and that people have different natural talents and strengths and it's okay to accept myself as who I am. It was almost a surprise to know that there is actually a way to be happier.
I would be interested if you could do a podcast or write an article about comparisons someday, if you have anything to share about this topic.”
How to Stop Comparing Yourself To Others, and Start Believing in Yourself
Oh yes, dear H, I do. I have quite a lot to share on this topic, actually.
In my day-to-day role as a therapist and life coach here at Growing Self, I talk to many, many people who express the same anxiety and heartache that you expressed in your letter. You would not believe how many gorgeous, healthy, blazingly intelligent, high achieving and objectively successful people feel the same way about themselves and their lives.
No matter what they do, they harbor gnawing anxiety that it's not enough. Their accomplishments are quickly disregarded in favor of the next amazing thing they should be doing. Their feelings about themselves rise and fall based on what others think of them. And when they do experience inevitable disappointments and setbacks, they are vulnerable to depression.
So on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I'm going to be tackling this subject. We're going to be talking all about the insidious emotional toll comparing yourself to others can take, and how to combat it by learning how to believe in yourself instead.
We'll be talking about how to affirm yourself, trust in yourself, strengthen yourself, develop your self awareness, plug holes in your vulnerabilities, and be empowered to create a life that is genuinely meaningful and satisfying to you.
Today's journey will begin by a little rock history lesson, featuring a band called Death.
xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
Why You Need to Stop Comparing Yourself To Others, ASAP
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Music Credits: “Keep on Knockin',” by Death