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My face stings as I read the text.
My stomach drops. My head pounds. My whole body feels like a pincushion, being stabbed over and over.
I feel exposed, limp with envy, and like I could implode from FOMO.
The tempo of my breathing speeds up. The shape of my thoughts becomes sharp, jagged, and pointy.
I feel inferior, left behind, completely invisible, and like the biggest fraud in the entire Universe.
I pause. I get underneath it. I ask what it wants. I ask myself what I want.
Comparison never feels good, especially when we consistently peg ourselves the loser. This natural part of our mind has a purpose: to help us distinguish things, like a cat from a llama, or hot from cold.
But when we wander into emotional and life-status comparisons, we end up feeling like utter sh*t. The thing, situation, or person we lack becomes center stage, while all the other blessings in our lives seem to slip between our fingers and drown in a sea of our despair.
There is a theory behind this called Social Comparison Theory. According to Psychology Today:
“People constantly evaluate themselves, and others, in domains like attractiveness, wealth, intelligence, and success. According to some studies, as much as 10 percent of our thoughts involve comparisons of some kind. Social comparison theory is the idea that individuals determine their own social and personal worth based on how they stack up against others. The theory was developed in 1954 by psychologist Leon Festinger. Later research has shown that people who regularly compare themselves to others may find the motivation to improve, but may also experience feelings of deep dissatisfaction, guilt, or remorse, and engage in destructive behaviors like lying or disordered eating.”
It’s good to know we are not alone. Every human being does this to some degree.
Because this will happen to us consistently (we’re alive and we have a brain), we owe it to ourselves to have an exit plan. Some steps we can take to get us out of our spinning and into a more surrendered, peaceful state.
When we have an action to take, we can’t dwell on other things. Our mind will switch from our comparisons (which are mired in our projections, assumptions, and fear) to the task we give it.
Try the following three actions when the comparison phantom comes to visit. I know these will help you kick it out the door.
1. Make a list of 100 things you know how to do.
One of the best ways to soothe comparison is by falling in love with ourselves and our gifts all over again—every day if it helps.
Taking an inventory on paper and seeing that list staring back at us is like a bridge back to our deepest selves. It’s a mirror of our time, experiences, and adventures.
Handwrite your list instead of tying it (if possible). Studies show that physically writing things down commits them to our memory and creates an emotional connection.
Don’t think you know how to do 100 things? Well, you’re not giving yourself enough credit. Can you drive a car? Write it down. Know how to make some bomb-ass tacos? List it. Know more than one language? Claim it. Can you sew? Read? Have computer skills? Fix cars? Pick out cute outfits for your kids? Play the piano? Make homemade soap? Write awesome emails? Put it on the list.
I want you to name even the smallest of skills—skills you do on autopilot. Make it a point to become more conscious of all the tips, tricks, and how-tos you’ve picked up along the way. I bet you’ll be amazed at yourself.
If you find yourself struggling, you’re not going deep enough. Don’t disregard anything. Most of us have skills we take for granted or knowledge that we brush off as unimportant or unnecessary. Did you birth a child? You know how to do that. Write it down. Did you coin a hashtag that went viral? Yep, that counts.
Making this list gets your attention off the comparison and reconnects you to your own life, time, and body. It also shows you the wealth of knowledge and experience you have. Just because we don’t think about this stuff every day, doesn’t mean it’s not useful. We are a rich tapestry of all that has happened to us. It’s pretty cool when you see it on paper.
Keep the list and continue adding to it. Store it in a sacred place. When that comparison muscle starts flexing again, refer to the list and fall in love with yourself and the life you’ve created so far.
Bonus points: this list could also be used as inspiration for lots of things. New paths, new careers, new passions, new perspectives. See? It’s already working!
2. Ask a trusted person to list 10 things they admire about you.
We often don’t realize how differently (and beautifully) other people see us until they give feedback.
Every person on Earth is in their own experience. We have a limited point of view, no matter how much knowledge we acquire. Everyone is working from their own set of standards, conditioning, perceptions, and education. We rarely have the full story about someone’s life—especially when we start to compare.
We want to open up the lens and peripheral vision as much as possible.
Here’s a beautiful thing about asking for feedback: it will help you see yourself differently. It will switch your point of attraction about what you observe about yourself. It will help to quell that voice that tells you you’re not up to snuff.
I remember receiving an email from an old colleague about my writing. I always included her in my emails about my work, but never knew if she was opening or reading anything. Well, one day she wrote back. She said how she read every article and to keep them coming. She said she even printed out a few and kept them on her desk to refer to when she was stuck on anything. She thanked me for including her on the list, to begin with!
In my mind, I had an entirely different story going on. While I was telling myself that people were most likely getting sick of hearing from me, the exact opposite was true—at least for her!
Ask for some positive feedback. Both people benefit from this. Why? Because we all seek connection. Comparison creates separation, which is why it feels so terrible.
3. Take the comparison and turn that ship around.
Make the comparison work for you. Train your mind to observe without self-judgment (or even the need to fix your reaction—self-love, always) and then, flip it. Ask what the comparison is trying to tell you or show you. Connect down into your tummy and explore. Allow the feelings to come up and out.
We are always after a feeling, not a physical outcome. Wanting more money is a need to feel safe, secure, and supported. Wanting a relationship is a need to feel loved and connected. Wanting a better job is a need to feel more fulfilled, appreciated, and like your work makes a difference.
The comparing is exposing an unmet need.
What can we do to change the energy from downtrodden to emboldened? We ask questions and get curious about possibilities.
1. “So and so is doing so well, I wonder what they did? Maybe I can schedule a coffee with them and do some research.”
Action taken = forward momentum and changed energy/engagement.
2. “This person has a life that I want to experience, too. What would light me up so much that I could create a vibration to help me manifest it?”
Question asked = inner radar will search for possibilities, solutions, answers, and opportunities.
3. “My friend is always beaming with light. I’m asking her what her secret is.”
Getting brave = greater self-love, self-acceptance, and self-appreciation.
So often, we feel we should know what to do and how to do it, even though no one has given us any direction. We must create direction for ourselves.
No one gave me a How-To Manual on Life. Did you get one? No? Didn’t think so.
We are all just flying by the seat of our pants anyway. Don’t feel bad. Being alive is an overwhelming experience. It’s not easy. And no one is keeping score, no matter how much it feels that way.
Anyone whom you think has it figured out is just human and doing the best they can with what they know. They have some stuff figured out (just like you) and some stuff they haven’t figured out (just like you).
The best antidote to comparison is action and curiosity.
And remember, refer to your list of 100 things (or 1,000 things!) whenever you feel down, overwhelmed, or lost. It will reignite your point of attraction.
You’ve already figured a lot of things out. Acknowledge that and stand in awe of all you’ve created thus far. You’re still here. You’re still in it. You have a chance to choose again.
Which action step most resonates with you? Let me know in the comments!