The curse of comparing yourself to others

As a species we’re instinctively on the lookout for constant improvement. It’s part of our most basic workings to want to be better because it maintains our survival. Not only does this apply to each of us as individuals; it creates a kind of competitive streak overall, making us note who’s superior, that is, more advanced.

So, basically, if you’re constantly comparing yourself to others, don’t feel bad. Blame it on evolution.

On a serious note though, comparisons can be extremely unhealthy. There’s a point where it stops being productive and just makes us feel bad about ourselves. So how do we strike that balance between promoting improvement and creating negative self-perspectives?

We all have people in our lives that are better than us in some way. Whether they’re better looking, smarter, funnier, more outgoing, more popular, they’re more. It’s fine when it’s someone slightly distant, like a rival player on a different team. But when it’s one of your closest friends, as it so often is, it’s a lot more complicated.

An example that jumps out of me is getting ready for a night out. It’s definitely a known feeling to so many of us – that excitement when you feel like you look your best – until you walk into the room for pre-drinks with your friends. Suddenly your stomach drops. Despite being full to the brim of confidence back in your bedroom, where you even gave your reflection a twirl, you now look at your gorgeous friends, effortlessly better than you, and sidle into the group like an apology, hoping no one peers at you too closely.

So, you may not be the stand-out stunner, but you’ve been known to crack the best jokes. You open your mouth, about to make a witty comment, when you remember that your other friend – the ‘hilarious’ one – is there. You swallow back your words, laughing at her commentary along with the others, heat rising in your cheeks of the less-funny responses you had been cooking up.

At least the next day in lectures you can get yourself together. You listen closely, taking notes and feeling really proud when you’re one of the only people in the class who understands the work, actually gets it. You walk home with a spring in your step, opening the door to your housemates, who are having a full blown political debate. Suddenly your voice fades, your chest deflating. All you can think of is how little you know, about how anything you chime in with would sound ridiculous to them.

There’s countless more scenarios we can all relate to. And that’s the secret. We. Can. All. Relate. It’s not that just one of us is this inferior being. Unless you’re extremely blessed with your confidence, you’ll be familiar with at least one of those situations. Because we all have our insecurities. Half the people in that room are probably looking at you and thinking the exact same thing back.

The key to not letting these comparisons take over it to accept yourself. Get to know and be comfortable with who you are. Things like your intelligence, physical ability, and looks can’t really be changed. What can is your attitude towards them. Learning to like what you’re about is the only way to truly reach your full potential. And when you’re there, comparisons start to become productive. You can look at your friends and admire them without thinking less of yourself. If they achieve a goal you’d love to reach as well, you congratulate them, and then continue on in your own efforts to reach it. When a love interest prefers your friend, let it go. That’s one human being, and they happened to have a different preference. You’ll be down someone else’s street, because you’re not any less, just a different person with different skills and strengths.

As cheesy as it sounds, you are who you are and you need to love that. The only person making comparisons a negative thing is you. They don’t have to be counter-productive. It’s a long road, but it can definitely be achieved. Forgive yourself and your flaws and acknowledge your good qualities. It becomes a whole different ball-game.

-By Orla Carty

Image from Chris Harrison on Flickr

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