Stop comparing yourself to others; breaking the comparison habit and changing our reactions.

January 31, the day New Year resolutions fade away, and bad habits creep back on little kitten paws, so quietly we barely know they’ve returned until they swallow us whole. Forget healthy eating, getting enough sleep, or color-coding your socks, concentrate on the one habit that crushes all our good intentions—comparing ourselves to others!  Comparison is the thief of joy.

The quickest way to derail your progress is to compare your efforts and achievements to someone else’s. And, with social media, you don’t even have to hunt down comparisons; they are always front and center. No matter what you do, someone else seems to be doing it better! You reach a goal or want to share good news, but then comparisons knife their way into your thinking, and suddenly your big win sours. Despite knowing there is always someone smarter, richer, more talented, we continue to compare our real life to someone else’s carefully curated highlight-reel, causing our personal growth to grind to a halt.  

People have always done this. One hundred years ago, Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” No doubt, back in cavemen days, people compared their fire-making skills or the girth of the woolly mammoth they caught.

It’s now 2020 and time to break this habit! The moment you start the comparison cycle, catch yourself and redirect your thinking toward your own goal. Stop dwelling on sister-Sally’s giant promotion, and use that energy to rethink and reinforce your career goals. Invest the energy in yourself and not in them. Comparing ourselves to others leaves us envious, depressed, and lowers our confidence. Comparisons can ruin relationships.

How did I get to this point? Twenty years ago, we gave up everything (and I mean everything) to relocate to the USA. Overnight, every marker, every “thing” that defined my life vanished, and we started from scratch. I couldn’t compare my house/car/job/what university I attended/where we took vacations, etc., to people around me because unlike us, they hadn’t just stepped off a plane! The playing field was so uneven that I was freed up from comparisons. So when we bought our first home, I didn’t go to that default setting and start comparing it to my friends’ homes—what was the point? I knew they were in a totally different boat to us, so I just enjoyed each goal we attained. I quickly realized because our situation was unique comparisons failed, the old, you can’t compare apples and oranges. I found this incredibly freeing. After that, it was a short step to cheering other peoples’ lives. Occasionally, I fall back into the comparison trap, but I stop myself, focus on my goals and applaud my friends’ achievements.

My suggestion for a new New Year Resolution is to stop all comparisons. I’m not going to say avoid all social media—this isn’t 1972!—but work on approaching each post with an attitude of a cheerleader; your cousin is on a dream island vacation? Reorient your reaction and think, good for her, she deserves it, and then spend some time planning your dream vacation. If you reach a personal goal (no chocolate before dinner—not speaking about anyone I know) just enjoy the win instead of immediately thinking about how your best friend never eats chocolate—like ever. 

I challenge you to get off the slippery slope of comparisons for 48 hours, and see how much better you feel.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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