Careful How You Compare Yourself…
We compare ourselves to others, often automatically and somewhat subconsciously. We compare looks, our happiness, financial success, professional success, accomplishments, social status, material goods, physical abilities, family, friends, children, and their accomplishments… and 1000 other aspects of our lives – anything that can be associated or attributed to something considered ‘part’ of us, or ‘related’ to us in some way.
This sizing up of ourselves has a very useful purpose. In the business world, knowing one’s competition allows for strategic marketing, and possibly creating a solution that is not provided by your competition. In a physical conflict, it allows one to avoid violent encounters that would otherwise prove likely to be deadly or injurious if we are clearly outmatched by our rival (while seeming irrelevant for many, unfortunately this is a very real subject for many youths, and adults, all around the world – sometimes on a daily basis).
This somewhat automatic act of comparing ourselves to others has evolved from a very real need for survival… much like fear (something I wrote similarly of in Stop Living by Fear.
However, much like fear being useful as well as limiting, self-comparison can also be limiting and harmful when out of balance. In today’s world it is more difficult than ever to see things clearly. Social media, marketing, cosmetic surgery, airbrushing and editing of photography, movies and television shows…our perception of reality is very skewed. Comparing ourselves can sometimes lead to negative patterns of thinking, behavioral disorders, and a severely limited life (entirely self-imposed).
Much has been written similar topics – so I want to focus on two very clear points:
- Our knowledge of someone else’s full life experience is always incomplete
- We judge our full selves against someone else’s incomplete external image
Our knowledge of someone else’s full life experience is always incomplete
Think about the fact that we often compare aspects of our lives in isolation. We compare our weight or fitness to that of others, yet we don’t compare our full lives. The other person may be dedicating so much of their life to fitness that they have sacrificed their personal relationships, time with their children, and success in their career (and these may be things that for you are amazing). Or, perhaps someone else has an amazing career, but doesn’t have the wonderful kids you have… or vice versa (notice neither is better or worse, but is simply the results of your choices in life and each has their merits).
With social media, our images of others are primarily based on what they want to represent as their lives. We inherently share and celebrate our victories and successes, and quietly hide or move past our defeats and challenges – usually not wanting anyone else to know. So when others see us, and when we see others, the picture is NEVER complete.
We judge our full selves against someone else’s incomplete external image
This is where our ‘automatic’ act of comparing of ourselves to others can lead to problems if we are not present and aware that what we ‘know’ about someone else is grossly incomplete. If we are attempting to start a new business, and we’re comparing ourselves to someone else that has an immensely successful business, we may feel that we can never be as good / successful / famous / respected (insert any adjective you like here). But what we don’t see is the 10 failures they had while creating their success. We don’t see the way they were when they were just starting out – when they had the same insecurities that you have now. We don’t see all their flaws, mistakes, misjudgments, insecurities. We only see where they are now – not how they got there.
There is a VERY different feeling of possibility when one can see that they too can do what someone else has done. Sometimes it’s not all about self-confidence, or self-esteem, but simply knowing that you and they are truly much more alike than you realize…That they too were once just like you, with the same dreams, doubts, and a very unique set of talents, thoughts, and abilities.
The truth is we all have something amazing to offer this world. We are all human, we all have unique talents, as well as doubts and insecurities. Everyone gets tired sometimes. Everyone feels doubts, fears, and sometimes needs a helping hand, and maybe a kind word or gentle guidance from someone that has been there and done that.
So as you go through this coming year in 2016, set your goals high, and don’t limit yourself. You don’t have to know how you’re going to get there, just know that you will and start moving in the right direction. When you see someone whom you may put on some form of a pedestal, try to imagine them when they were just starting out…try to view their whole person. Then learn from what others have done, but don’t worry about who’s in front or behind you… just keep moving forward toward your dreams and you’ll be amazed with what begins to happen in your life