Comparisons are normal, but they can also negatively affect our lives. Here are four ways to stop comparing yourself to others and be happy.
I was skimming through a Facebook mommy group when I saw this post:
“$300 for satin crib sheets. Retails for $800!”
The mom selling the sheets also included photos of their impeccable nursery, complete with chandeliers for their twin girls.
Meanwhile, here I was thinking I was doing pretty well after having bought a nice quality purse… before realizing that that mom could have probably bought the same purse every month of this year. My mood melted, and I knew why:
I was comparing myself to other people.
Whether you compare your lifestyles, your income, your parenting method, your appearance—it’s easy to base your worth and self-esteem on your surroundings.
This is why it matters whom we spend our time with. People within the same social circles tend to feel better about themselves than those where some are much poorer or richer than their friends and family.
This is also why watching television has brought a whole new level. For generations, we compared ourselves with those we lived with, so that if we were in the middle-class, we mostly saw people also from the middle-class.
With television and new media, we have wider access to different lifestyles. One that gives us a glimpse into the lives of those living a much higher standard of living than ours.
And one that could potentially make us either feel terrible about ourselves, or push us to strive towards that lifestyle, however unrealistic doing so may be.
I don’t begrudge that mom for having easy access to money, just as I don’t feel terrible for making more money than other people. Yet the comparisons are still bound to come up, and they’re challenging when they affect how we feel about ourselves.
For instance, sometimes we not only feel jealous, but feel swayed to follow suit (“Seems like everyone is doing it, so maybe I should too…”). Learning how to stop comparing yourself to others pushes that pressure out of the way.
Other times we’re led to question our decisions: If moms are sending their kids to preschool, then we wonder whether we should have done the same.
Or worse, we judge. We compare ourselves to others and hold our methods superior to theirs, even if what they do bears little importance to our own lives. How many times have we judged how other people raise their kids when their methods hold no direct impact to our own families?
Comparisons are natural. It’s how we stay in line in society and not do crazy things. It’s how we know what’s normal or not, so that if you your one-year-old still isn’t sitting up compared to others his age, you’re led to think that something might be wrong.
How to stop comparing yourself to others
It’s normal and natural to compare. In a way, you can’t completely stop comparing yourself to others.
But comparisons are also potentially destructive, especially when we allow them to negatively alter our lifestyles. How often are we going to reach for designer clothes because other people buy them left and right?
Or vice versa—will we feel terrible for the purchases we made (and could afford) because we seem condemned for buying luxury items?
Sometimes we even feel terrible just because other people seem to have perfect lives. Many online discussions have been made about the effects of social media and its portrayal of picture-perfect lifestyles.
We see Pinterest crafts or baby activities and feel compelled to do the same… then feel terrible when we don’t. Or we see our friends’ and colleagues’ vacations and wonder why we haven’t traveled to Europe or Costa Rica yet.
We even see our friends’ gorgeous photos on Facebook and wonder why we couldn’t look just like that. Comparisons are bound to happen, and much of it is normal. But for those that draw the worst in us, I try to do four things to help even them out.
Be grateful for what you have
By far this is the best detractor for when comparisons rear their ugly heads. Every night I give thanks for the things that make my life rich, and even easy: A healthy, happy family. A job. And all the little things that happened that day that made it so much better.
Because when you wonder why you’re living in an apartment when everyone else seems to have a backyard and their own washer and dryer in their house, feeling grateful for having a spacious apartment in a great location can do wonders.
Or—when you assume your life would be ten times better if your income were also ten times more—you remember to be grateful that you even have an income, a flexible schedule and a stress-free work environment.
And when you compare how you look to others who seem more fabulous than you, you give thanks for your own beauty and health. Gratitude erases comparisons because it highlights just how much we already have, rather than focusing on what we don’t.
It reminds us that we have Enough, even when it seems that others keep wanting more and of the many things to be thankful for—things that others would be just as envious of.
Set goals to accomplish what you want
Rather than allowing comparisons to bring you down, consider setting goals instead. Use the comparisons as goals you would like to achieve.
For instance, rather than pining for that perfect body, work on your own through exercise and healthy food.
If someone else seems to be doing something much better than you, study their methods. Why are they so good at what they do? What can you learn from them, and how can you apply it to your own life?
Do what you can to make the changes you want happen. Squirrel money away into a vacation fund. It may take longer than others, but you’ll at least have been able to take that vacation rather than feeling like you can’t afford to go anywhere.
Some comparisons aren’t all bad: Use them to motivate you to improve your life.
Delete things that make you feel bad
Remember that mommy post with the $300 satin crib sheets? After a few more of those posts, I decided to hide that Facebook group for a while. I didn’t want to check Facebook only to find yet another post or complaint that I would never be able to relate to due to different lifestyles.
I’ve even had to hide a few of my acquaintances on Facebook whose posts—however innocent—were borderline “show off-y” and made me feel worse.
Consider unplugging from technology or the internet. Less television, news, or digital media means you have less lives to hold yourself up against.
You may even find yourself de-friending people whose negative energy is hampering your own. As we grow, we define our own values and realize that they may not always align with others’ who were once closest to us.
Sometimes we just need to clear ourselves of comparisons by removing the sources to begin with.
Remind yourself that no one is perfect
Comparisons can easily change our perceptions of ourselves and our lives. Perhaps the biggest point to remember is that nothing is ever perfect.
For instance, having much more money may make your life easier, yet that money comes with its own slew of problems. Celebrities sacrifice privacy and invite criticism and even hate mail for the career and income they command.
And picture-perfect Pinterest photos show only a snapshot of a life filled with its own problems. Hardly anyone reveals their true sorrows and insecurities.
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While comparisons are normal and healthy, watch out for those that aren’t doing you any good. Be grateful, strive to improve your life, and remove negativity.
Above all, no one is perfect. Even people who can afford $800 satin crib sheets.
Get more tips about parenthood and how we compare:
- Moms, We’re All in This Together
- Ask the Readers: Do You Feel like a Confident Mom?
- How to Respond when Friends Criticize Your Parenting
- Stop Comparing Your Child to Others
- When Your Child Doesn’t Play the “Right Way”
What are your tips to stop comparing yourself to others? Do you find yourself comparing yourself to others once in a while, frequently or somewhere in between? How have comparisons changed your life—positively or negatively? Share your stories in the comments!
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