5 Tips to Escape the Comparison Trap

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There was a time I didn’t like all that much about myself.  I hate to admit that, because it feels so ‘icky,’ but it’s the truth!

Everyone else was prettier, smarter, funnier, more talented, thinner, more successful...well, you get my point.

No matter where I looked, I always felt behind, less accomplished, or simply not enough.

As a result, it felt like everything I wanted was out of reach because I didn’t have what it took, or everyone else was better suited.

Let me tell you...living life in that trap became exhausting!  

Eventually, I realized that we’re all caught on that hamster wheel, to some degree.  What we don’t realize when we compare ourselves to others, is that our reality is far better than the image we create in our minds. Sadly, we believe this made-up image over the reality.

It’s like looking in one of those fun mirrors at a carnival -  the skewed image is out of proportion with reality.

So, that sent me on a quest to stop seeing others as the foundation for all my shortcomings, because if I didn’t, I’d never be able to measure up and my life would forever be a disappointment.

Stuck in the Comparison Trap?

The comparison trap is a never-ending cycle of comparing yourself to others and feeling like you come up short in the process.

The subjects of your comparison may be close friends, family members, co-workers, or even people you don’t know via the vast world of social media.

What you use to compare yourself to others can be anything - appearance, possessions, intelligence, experiences, careers, etc.

Please note that this is a normal human tendency and is actually needed in order self-awareness to happen.  Self-reflection can only occur by looking to others for evaluation and reflection.

So, from that perspective, comparing yourself to others isn’t a bad thing!

Where comparison goes sideways is when it leads you to feel inadequate, less than, or any other unhealthy or negative emotion.

How to Get Out of the Comparison Trap

The problem with being stuck in the comparison trap is that it’s a no-win situation, it’s unfair, and it wastes time and energy.

Let’s face it; you know every intimate detail about yourself - the good, the bad, the ugly. But, as you’re more than aware, everyone aims to put their best face forward while hiding their dirty laundry.

So, how can you look to the highly curated lives of others and fairly compare it to your messy reality?

To put this in perspective, it’s like an Olympic athlete competing against you, the trainee - the odds aren’t in your favor!

So, how do you escape this all-too-common trap?

5 tips to escape the comparison tap:

  1. Accept yourself where you are:  Everyone is struggling and, no one’s life is what they project.  You have to stop focusing on where everyone else appears to be, and focus on where you are right now and embrace it.

  2. Forget about perfection:  Perfection doesn’t exist and will leave you chasing a fantasy.  The beauty of life is in the messy details, so release the pressure to always be picture perfect,  and you will set yourself free.

  3. Limit your time on Social Media:  Studies show the more people use social media, the more unhappy they are with themselves and their lives, so if you want to exit the comparison trap, start by drastically limiting your scrolling on Facebook, Instagram, etc.

  4. Practice Gratitude:  When you practice gratitude and find things in your life to truly be grateful for, it closes the gap on not feeling “enough” because you’re filling your cup with what you already have and accepting who you already are.

  5. Use yourself as your benchmark for comparison:  If you feel like comparison motivates you to do better, work harder, etc., then use yourself as your basis of comparison.  How can you do better than you of 5 years ago, 1 year ago, or 1 month ago?

Final Thoughts

It’s natural to look to others as an indication of how you should behave, what you should look like, what you should have, etc.

But, everyone is unique with individual needs, desires, and talents.  What works for one, won’t work for another (nor should it!).

If you look outside of yourself for validation of your sense of worth, you’ll never measure up.  So, shift that perspective and stop looking to others to decide how to live your life and how to feel about yourself.