We humans have a tendency to compare ourselves with others. People look at their car, house, career and bank account, and compare them with the Johnson family on the other side of the fence. Young people compare themselves with others in terms of how popular they are at school, how pretty they are, how good grades they have and how good they are at sport.
This phenomenon (like most other social phenomena) probably goes back to the Stone Age; when we lived in tribes of a few hundred individuals. Then it was helpful to compare yourself to the others in the tribe; to identify where one stood in the hierarchy, for example. It would be stupid to challenge Gork if he is both stronger and has more powerful friends in the tribe than you have.
But today, comparing yourself with others can lead to adverse effects. In most areas of life, you will be able to find others who are ‘better’ than you are. To compare yourself with others will therefore often create bad feelings such as bitterness, disappointment and jealousy. And even if you were the world champion in one area, you would not be in another. And how cool really is the feeling of gloating over others just because you are better than them at something?
So don’t compare yourself with others, but rather just with yourself.
This is particularly good advice for those who are not doing well. Those who are struggling with depression for example, usually constantly go around comparing themselves with others, and feel very bad about themselves as a result. Your suffering becomes so painfully clear when you look at those around you, and who you believe live amazing lives completely without problems (which is bullshit, by the way).
I like to follow the statistics of the exercise I’m doing. But it’s not particularly encouraging to look at the Strava app, only to find that I cycle slower than 90% of the others who have cycled a particular route. What is fun though, is to realize that I have improved my own pace for that route, compared to myself 5 years ago.
So how can you make this change – to stop comparing yourself to others, and rather use yourself as the benchmark?
You start out by taking note whenever you are comparing yourself to others (and you’ll be surprised at how often you do this). And when you notice that you are doing this, then you say to yourself something like, “Stop this! I shall only compare against myself!”
It takes some time to achieve this change of habits, but by noticing when you are doing it, and by making an effort to stop it, you will eventually succeed over time. It really all starts with becoming more aware of the way you think.
You can combine this little exercise with working systematically to improve the things you’re not happy with in your life. If you constantly worry about your finances, for example; set up a monthly budget and a savings plan so you get back on the right track. If you would like to loose weight, start by taking a daily walk and increase the distance week by week. If you would like to be happier, work on how you think, and over time you will see that your mood gradually improves. There are many tips on how to do this kristianhall.com.
A little exercise I’m very fond of is this: sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes and imagine an ideal life for yourself. Imagine what you would do, what you would wear, and how your body language is. (The Self Hypnosis Recording here contains a variation of this exercise). The exercise will show you the changes you need to do in order to live the life you want. Note that this is not a superman/superwoman image, where you have tons of money, nice cars and rock star fame. It could be something as simple as a similar version to how you are today, but one that is more relaxed, laughs more in everyday life, and is generally satisfied with life. I think these are more than good enough goals.
Think about where you stand today and identify which items you would like to change while still being grateful for what you have today. Then make a goal for each of these items. Write down the goals, usually in the present form, because this is more effective. For example, write:
I will run 10 km in under an hour, a year from now
I’ve got myself a new job as a graphic designer, within Christmas
I’ve established a romantic relationship with someone I love within 2020
I read a book a week, for the rest of 2017
It is better to start with some moderate goals, and ensure that you achieve them before aiming higher. And, in keeping with the philosophy in this blog post; it is only you who decides where it is you want to get to!
Read more in Rise from Darkness.