ust like Superman with his Kryptonite, our self-confidence is easily harmed by exposure to comparison. Huh?
Well. We humans have a very bad habit of comparing ourselves with unrealistic images, and letting that nasty little voice in our head get carried away with it. Then to compound this problem further, we also imagine that others think the same nasty things about us that we think about ourselves.
We compare. We are paranoid. So welcome to a little town I call Comparinoya.
This metaphorical town is actually very well populated, but nobody talks to each other, so we all feel alone here. Does that sound crazy? Well, you are right, it is crazy! So why do we live like this?
Why do we do it?
“Why compare yourself with others? No one in the entire world can do a better job of being you than you.” ~Unknown
We all do it or have done it at some point in our lives. We compare ourselves to others and judge how we are doing based on what we observe others to be doing.
As with so many of our destructive ‘grown-up’ habits, this too often has its roots in childhood.
Mark Tyrrell, author and expert on self-confidence says that it comes partly from unrealised expectations from childhood, and partly from societal pressure.
“If, as a child, you strongly expected to be a parent or a movie star when you reached adulthood, then these expectations, if not realized, can hang around at the back of your mind for decades, causing a vague but pervasive sense of disappointment or personal failing. They may not even have been conscious expectations.”
Does that hit a nerve for you? I know that so many people I have mentored on this often feel that they should have hit a certain level of success ‘by now’, referring to their age. This pressure we feel is often the trigger for the famous existential dread we feel around the time of the big four-o milestone.
So what’s wrong with using others as a yardstick?
If this was simply about observation, that would be one thing. But in comparing ourselves to others, we often end up judging ourselves. There’s nobody worse to judge! We are our own worst critics.
Have you ever noticed, that it doesn’t matter how many people are on your side, cheering you on. If you can’t get on your own side, you never get “lift-off” in the first place…
The thing about comparison is that there is never a win. How often do we compare ourselves with someone less fortunate than us and consider ourselves blessed? Rarely.
More often, we compare ourselves with someone who we perceive as being, having, or doing more. And this just leaves us coming up short. It could sound like this:
Is she better looking than me?
Am I as good a mother as she is?
Am I as interesting as she is?
Take it up a notch
it could also be a literal comparison like, “if she can lose 15 lbs on that diet I should be able to too!”
Unlike many people, I do not believe we can all do the same things in life. We do not have the same opportunities, and we cannot create the same results no matter how much we want to.
It is literally impossible and utterly useless to compare ourselves to others. It’s like comparing apples and peanuts.
Unless we are the same gender, same age, same genetic build, eat the same, drink the same, have grown up in the same family, speaking the same language both literally and emotionally… it is futile to compare.
Would you compare the ability to climb a tree for say… a lion and a fish? I bet not. So let’s stop being unrealistic with ourselves. And while we are at it, I know it’s been said before, but nobody’s real life looks like their Instagram account! Seriously.
We all visit Comparinoya – but let’s not unpack and live there… okay?
So we all visit this place from time to time, and I don’t want you to beat yourself up about this – this is not another thing to judge yourself for. Let’s start with a little self-compassion. We are all human.
Let’s talk about keeping our visits to this place brief. But just before we talk about how to move on from Comparinoya town, it is worth understanding how we got there in the first place. Because as always, prevention is better than cure. So if we learn what got us to this place then we can be on the look out for the road signs next time, and maybe even make a little diversion to somewhere nicer!
Shame – a big, flashing sign to look out for along the way.
Judging ourselves often results in the shame monster rearing its ugly head. And shame is an indication that you may be getting caught in a comparison trap. If you feel that you are ‘not good enough’, not as successful as somebody else, or you have a sense of disappointment with your life… this is a slippery slope.
How do we move on?
Learn to recognize shame for what it is – a feeling. Now feelings are something that society may have taught us to suppress. But hold on a minute, society doesn’t always get it right! When we suppress feelings we fall back onto coping mechanisms; eating, drinking, numbing and so on.
And what happens when we fall into these self-destructive mechanisms? We get sick, gain weight, struggle to keep up with work, responsibilities and life… in short, our shame becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy! Can I be blunt here for a moment? We are more in control of this than we let ourselves believe. You can spot it coming, and you can stop it from happening.
So why don’t we usually stop it from happening? That negative voice in our head wants to be proven right. It wants us to trip up so it can say, “I told you so”. And then of course the chemical reward from our coping mechanism kicks in, and we stay small and safe, tucked up in our little shame bubble.
You can end the cycle by seeking out professional help. But it’s your choice to make, and you have to be the one to make it.
Are you ready to move on from Comparinoya?
If so then firstly, I applaud you. It’s not easy to admit that you need a change. We are creatures of habit after all. But change is necessary for progress, and I am here cheering you on.
My own journey though abuse and emotional eating has taught me about embracing change. And I know a thing or two about comparison, shame and all the issues that surround it.
I would love for you to reach out and tell me a little something about your own journey. I am here to help, so please leave me a comment here or get in touch privately. Once you make a connection you are no longer alone in your situation, then everything is suddenly a little less scary. Even change!