How to Quit Comparing Yourself to Others
by Mimi O' Connor
Photo Credit: Nick Heer, via Flickr Creative Commons
When a new year begins so many of us get inspired to declare what habits we intend to acquire to effect personal transformation. But it’s also prudent to consider which of our habits or patterns from the past we would like to give up.
“Don’t ever compare your insides with someone else’s outsides”
We certainly don’t need anyone to preach to us about the value of quitting habits that we already know are detrimental to our physical health like smoking, inadequate nutrition or lack of exercise. But what about those other habits that may be robbing us of physical, emotional and mental energy? A vital one is the habit of cruelly comparing ourselves to others. It wears us down, both inside and out.
Quitting doesn’t always involve a singular, dramatic act. More often it is a process that involves a dawning awareness that encourages us over time to consider alternate possibilities, make a new plan and take deliberate steps toward change. We are worth this deliberate attention and thoughtful intention. Our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health is counting on us to quit any habit or situation where we are not valuing ourselves or not being valued by others. Our freedom lies in giving ourselves permission to say, “That’s enough. This isn’t working. I want to refocus and change direction for my greater good.”
“Everybody is a Genius…”
A 2016 study by researchers from Lancaster University and published in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking found that comparing yourself with others on Facebook is likely to lead to feelings of depression.
Similar concerns over the effect of social media on mental health prompted The American Academy of Pediatrics in 2011 to identify a phenomenon called “Facebook Depression.”They defined this as “depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites such as FB, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.” They discovered that making negative comparisons with others and ruminating or overthinking these comparisons contributed to an increase in depression.
These findings beg the question, “Is social media the problem, or is how we are using it the problem?” Online activity, in some cases, can actually help with depression when it is used as a way to increase social support.
We must become aware of our tendency to look for evidence that our lives and accomplishments pale in comparison to others. We don’t necessarily have to quit FB. What we can learn to quit is the hurtful, insidious act of comparing our precious, one-of-a-kind lives to the imagined, superior lives and habits of others.
We’ve heard it said in many different ways, “Don’t ever compare your insides with someone else’s outsides” or “Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20.” I’m sticking with this wisdom from Albert Einstein, “Everybody is a genius. But if a fish judges itself by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”
Here’s the gist. Quit comparing yourself to others. Focus instead on identifying, sharing and celebrating your innate gifts. We must proactively choose to teach our children that they are enough just as they are, and in so doing, reinforce this truth for ourselves.
Quitting Can Be an Act of Courage
Our culture is ruled by an emphasis on striving, winning, and acquisition. But by identifying and quitting what diminishes us, we can find the fortitude to admit and accept what isn’t working, in order to open the way to what could. This will enable us to shift our emphasis to more healthful patterns of self-validation, contentment and self-sufficiency.
Mustering the courage to let go of patterns that belittle us and undermine our feelings of self-worth increases our integrity and self-respect. This self-honesty raises us up and promotes a healing harmony and cohesiveness within our bodies, minds and spirits. Author Alan Cohen said it this way, “Integrity is the condition in which the life you are living in the outer world matches who you are in the inner world.”
What past, disruptive pattern or habit would you like to quit doing in the New Year?