The holiday season is winding down, and you may have noticed yourself feeling jealous around old friends you caught up with at parties and social events. While comparing ourselves is human nature, when we base our self-esteem on these perceptions, we only reinforce negative and false beliefs about ourselves.
Our self-worth becomes dependent on whether we think we’ve ‘won’ the comparison. If we have, we feel good about ourselves, but the second we think we’re ‘losing,’ our self-confidence plummets. And since we can’t always be on top, we end up living on a roller coaster of happiness. Basing our self-worth outside of ourselves only sets us up for a lifetime of extreme highs and lows.
Here are a few tips to break the unhealthy (but extremely common) habit of self-comparison:
The first step is to consciously pay attention to your thoughts, and catch yourself when you start making a comparison. As soon as you realize what you’re doing, visualize a big red stop sign in your head. When you do this, you jar yourself away from your previous thoughts. After you’ve held the image of the stop sign for a few seconds, focus on the things in your life you’re grateful for or an accomplishment you’re particularly proud of. It’s nearly impossible to feel grateful and lacking at the same time.
Don’t Fight a Losing Battle
We often compare ourselves to others when we feel something is missing in our lives. When we think we lack something, we look for people around us who have what we want. We imagine that if only we had it too, we’d be happy. But by doing that, we’re pitting one of our weaknesses against another person’s strengths, making it virtually impossible to feel good about ourselves in the process.
There’s More Than Meets the Eye
We have the tendency to focus on a single aspect of a person’s life rather than looking at the whole picture. We then idealize their entire life and incorrectly assume how much better it is than ours. For example, maybe our friend is drop-dead gorgeous, but does she then feel intense pressure to maintain her looks or base her self-esteem on her appearance? Look at how many celebrities seem to have it all, yet suffer from drug problems and unfulfilling personal lives. A person’s life might look amazing on the surface, yet rarely do we know the full story of what goes on underneath.
Enjoy the Journey
Remind yourself that life is a journey, not a competition. Each of us has our own unique path and things we need to accomplish in our lifetime. When we try to be like other people, we’re not being like ourselves. We’re not flourishing in the unique way that only we can.
Find a Mentor
When you see someone who has something you want, rather than comparing yourself to them, use them as a mentor. What steps did they take to get what you now desire? Their path can serve as a guide and help you figure out how to get the same thing for yourself.
Make Positive Comparisons
If you must make a comparison, compare your current self to whom you were previously. Acknowledge the progress you’ve made, what you’ve learned, how much you’ve grown. Appreciate the positive steps you’ve taken to change your life and how you’re moving forward toward your goals.
Remember that you’re working to change a deeply ingrained habit, which takes time and consistent practice. It probably won’t happen overnight. But if you keep practicing, you will get better. You’ll start to compare yourself less and less, and when you do, you’ll automatically redirect your thoughts toward celebrating your individuality and honoring your unique mix of qualities and talents. Which, after all, are precisely what make you so special.