I like to think that I’m above the comparison trap insofar as I know that comparing yourself to others is detrimental to your mental health and well-being.
But isn’t that what life is? Winners and losers? There is only one winner in a bike race, for a job position, at Kona, bar trivia, and field day. In that sense, if you are not the winner, you are the loser. It doesn’t have to be a negative thing where we hold an ‘L’ to our forehead and stick our tongues out at you.
But if you did not come in first, then you lost. Because we all have a set of skills we bring to an event, race, or interview, those skills are essentially compared to the others you are competing against. The one with the most advanced set of skills in the particular situation usually beats the others.
In a job interview, the most qualified person is typically offered the position.
The racer with the highest watts out-sprints the field.
The kid with the strongest ankle flip wins the shoe kick.
The opposite is also true: the least qualified person for the job isn’t offered the position. The slowest to the finish line is last place. The weak-ankled kid receives the purple participation ribbon for losing. With all that being said, of course it’s natural to compare yourself to others.
We’ve all been there, succumbing to comparisons and feeling less than. Here are some tips that may help you when you start comparing yourself to others:
1. Find what triggers you
Social media is a major trigger. Any time we go on there, we’re inundating ourselves with people’s highlight reel. When you compare your personal issues with the stuff people are CHOOSING to post on social media, you kill your confidence. We all have 99 problems and we don’t post a single one. Stop comparing yourself to others’ curated life.
We’re all marketing ourselves on social. All of the channels. It’s that mental fuckery inside Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
We market ourselves like businesses do. You don’t see companies airing their dirty laundry, advertising how they treat their employees, or the fact that they’ve yet to make a profit. We’re only seeing a business’s best side, just like the hundreds of people you follow and ‘friend.’ We compare our dirty laundry to their dry-cleaned, bougie outfits.
If you find yourself scrolling a little too obsessively, tell yourself, “This is bullshit,” “This is what they want me to see,” and “I can’t compare my bullshit to theirs.” The next step is deleting those apps off your phone.
If you feel worse about yourself after scrolling through activities, photos, and posts on social, then get off of it. Instead, go be “social” with your friends.
2. Remind yourself of things you’re good at
Start creating a list. It doesn’t need to be endless. Start with a single thing. And start it when you’re in a good mood. When you’ve already fallen into Comparison Hell and start comparing yourself to others, you’re gonna have a bad time. You’re not going to be able to think of anything because you’ll be too busy obsessing over Barb’s qualities.
If you’re in a good mood and still not coming up with something, ask your friends and family. They’ll know something you’re good at. The one thing I’m always pointed to is my writing. When I start to feel less-than in one area of my life, I try to remind myself that I’m pretty okay at writing.
3. Practice gratitude
A lot of us get down about our bodies. When I remind myself of what my body can actually do, I’m much more focused on my gratitude for it instead of its shortcomings. I have a friend with muscular dystrophy. It’s an incurable disease that weakens—and essentially, destroys—the muscles in the body. If I had muscular dystrophy, I wouldn’t be able to race my bike.
I remember times walking with my friend and he’d fall. The amount of energy and work it took him to get back into a crouching position and the particular force I’d have to place on his lower back as I hoisted his upper body back up was astounding.
We traveled to Japan together and he fell off the subway onto the platform. It shocked people. The workers wanted to help, but he was dead weight on the ground. You’d have to be a pretty strong person to simply lift him up. I’m not strong enough. Neither were the workers who tried. We all had to stand there and wait for him to get in his crouched position so I could help him up the rest of the way.
I don’t have to worry about falling and not being able to get up due to weak muscles. Everyone has something they can be grateful for.
4. Compare yourself to your past self
We are unlike anyone else. No one else could imitate us or be us or have the qualities we do as a whole person. There is no one else like you in the world. So if you’re going to compare yourself to someone, it only makes sense to compare you to a younger version of you. When you do, it kind of blows your mind.
When you catch yourself comparing yourself to others, stop and look at your younger self and compare against that.
My friend Courtney tried convincing me to join soccer in high school. I painstakingly agreed to go to a practice. There we were, running up and down the stairs over and over and over again. My lungs burned. I thought I was going to puke. I hated it. I told myself that when I got to the top of the stairs, I was going to run away and behind the railing. I did. I took off. A girl screamed, “She’s running away.” I hid in the bathroom with my skater friends until soccer practice was over.
It’s hard to fathom that I don’t go a day without moving my body in one way or another. I love to workout now. Unless I had a super hard training week, I don’t look forward to rest days. When you catch yourself comparing yourself to others, think about an older version of you. How have you changed since? What can you do better now?
Comparing yourself to improve yourself is good, it’s healthy, it’s natural. When you compare yourself to others and feel bad for your shortcomings and do nothing about it, then you’re walking down a path to Comparison Hell.