“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it's ability to climb a tree, it will live it's whole life believing that it is stupid”
There's no denying it:
We live in an ever-competitive world, where everything is about being better, faster, stronger or better looking than everything else.
As a result, there is one destructive habit that flares up in almost every human brain, on earth.
People ALL constantly compare themselves to other people.
It's almost impossible to avoid it, unless you actively make an effort to stop it.
You probably don't even notice yourself doing it, even when it's bold and obvious.
In all walks of live, most people will compare themselves to others in one of two ways:
- They look at other people, and wish they could be like them
- They belittle other people, to make themselves feel better
This can only produce an emotion of sadness and insecurity OR superiority and grandeur.
Neither is a positive outcome and neither will accelerate your own development or happiness. Fact.
This usually all starts at childhood, where we compare ourselves with children in our school, friends or siblings and, unfortunately, becomes a deep-rooted part of our programming.
Moving up through teenage years these comparisons become more vast and frequent, comparing ourselves to celebrities and, often, completely unrealistic ideas of perfect or successful.
(Sidenote: Just look at the magazines and newspapers with their “Top 100 Sexiest Men/Women Of 2016” polls. I mean, who decides that stuff anyway?
Aside from anything, I'm pretty sure that they haven't stopped and looked at every man/woman in the world and “levels of sexiness” are pretty subjective.
And why haven't I ever been listed in that? Okay, just kidding.
Still, the concept is pretty darn damaging to anyone else with low self-esteem, especially if they don't see themselves as looking anything like those “Top 100”).
This ugly habit can create a damaging force for your friendships and relationships, by building an unspoken rivalry and driving people apart.
As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”.
In many studies, it's been proven that people felt a considerable drop in happiness to find out that their neighbours and friends earned more than them.
That's CRAZY, but I can completely see why it's true.
This constant cycle of comparison starts from a place of low self-esteem, with an innate opinion that you aren't good enough as you are, or with the things that you have in life.
To try and buffer this feeling, we seek the (false), materialistic approval of others, which, by definition, requires you to “rise above” them.
This logic is actually flawed.
After all, if the feeling of being “not as good” as others causes you to resent them, then they could very well feel the same about you if your roles were reversed.
You cannot rely on the rest of the world to dictate how you should live, what you should do, how you should look.
You're NOT in a life-long competition with those around you.
You don't need to be better than anyone else. You just need to be better than you were, yesterday.
That is all that matters – creating the best version of yourself, that you possibly can.
This plagued me too, until about 5 years ago, when I came to a sudden and dramatic realisation.
Whoever I am, there is always going to be someone funnier than me, richer than me, sportier then me, better looking than me, with a faster car than me, more intelligent than me and with better hair than me.
And guess what? Even THEY probably look at someone else and wish they could be like them.
Comparison is a completely NATURAL thing to do. We ALL do it, but it's not a good thing to do.
Fortunately, you can learn to overcome it and force yourself to stop.
The first step to beating this is to identify it. Really make an effort to listen out for yourself saying things like “I wish I looked like…” or “I wish I was as good at…”.
Of course, a lot of the time you won't actually say anything out loud… you'll just THINK it. But that's potentially even more damaging because you're fully internalising the feeling.
So every time you say (or think!) something along these lines, stop for a moment and re-assess the situation to decide whether or not that actually matters.
(Quick tip: It never does).
In fact, these thoughts actually HOLD you back further.
In that moment of sadness, jealousy and upset, you actually set yourself back a few paces on your OWN journey of personal development.
When you find yourself thinking or feeling this way, you need to re-frame the emotion surrounding it.
For example, if you see someone who you consider to be “better” than you, in some way, then instead of letting it put you down, learn to be happy for them and encourage it.
Championing the success of someone else is a positive emotion and sparks amazing things in your mind. It changes your emotion from a thought of envy, to one of inspiration – and THAT is powerful.
Likewise, if you see someone that, in the past, you would scoff at, try to shift that thought pattern to look at them in an understanding or compassionate way, instead.
Think about THEM and realise that everyone deserves the chance to be the person they are, not the person that you expect them to be.
You don't need to be “better” than them, and by thinking that you are, it actually brings you down. It gives you a false sense of pride, which will – sooner or later – let you down.
The real key is to celebrate the things which make you, you and praise your uniqueness. You have the absolute right to be or do ANYTHING that you want, and no one can take that away from you.
For every weakness that you find in yourself when comparing yourself to others, you'll probably find at least one strength that they don't have.
Rather than wishing you had the thing that they have, practise being grateful for the things that YOU have. It's an incredible emotion.
You also need to realise that everything you SEE when you look at someone else is only surface level. You can't see what's going on behind the scenes.
If someone you know has all the trappings of a wealthy life, with expensive cars, big homes, multiple holidays, they could still be living a deeply troubled life. Or when you see someone who you consider to be better looking than you, they could be constantly fighting with their partner.
You can NEVER see what is going on behind the scenes, so don't take everything on it's first impression.
The moment that you make a conscious decision to stop comparing yourself to others, your life will become infinitely happier, stronger and more confident.
Use your comparison to others to inspire you to set and achieve your goals, rather than to hold you back.