There’s no delicate way to phrase it: Comparison really sucks. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And in an ever-connected world, it’s easier now than ever to do.
In a few taps and swipes, we can find people we don’t really even know and decide they’re better than us. Or that they’re ahead of us. Or that they’re prettier, smarter, richer, or more successful.
You get the idea.
As someone who has been utterly caged in by comparison for most of my life, I’ve found some ways to cope when I start deciding someone is doing life infinitely better than I am. While I definitely still fall into the trap every now and then (I am human after all!), I’ve definitely gotten better.
Anyway, here are the three strategies I’ve used to stop my urge to compare in its tracks. Hopefully, it might help you, too.
Try a mindset shift
When you’re noticing you’re comparing yourself to someone else yet again, practice a mindset shift. For example, perhaps a good friend just starting dating someone wonderful the same week you got ghosted for the 178th time. Unless you’re Michelle Obama, you maybe start feeling a little jealous, asking yourself questions like, “Why do things never work out for me like that?” Or, “How did they find them so easily?”
Jealousy is never a fun feeling, especially when it’s in regards to someone we love and care for. In most cases, it’s brought out by comparison. This is where the mindset shift comes into play. When you start asking those defeating questions, turn ‘em on their heads:
- “Why do things never work out for me like that?” → “Modern dating is a struggle but it’ll work out for me one day, even if it’s not as fast as I’d like.”
- How did they find them so easily? → “I’m so happy they finally found someone who is as awesome as they are!”
When we shift our self-defeating mindset into something that serves us in a more healthy and productive way, we’re taking the power away from comparison and giving it back to ourselves.
Ask yourself if what they have is what you actually want.
Do you actually want to be married with kids by 28? Do you actually want to be at the top of the corporate ladder by 32? Do you actually want to work out every morning at 4 AM? (Fucking Hell, no.) Do you actually want to travel every single month?
Could it be that these are things you think looks good and what you’re supposed to be doing? If so, ask yourself if what they have is what you actually want. Ask yourself how you’d rather have a life that looks good over one that feels great. That’s authentic. That’s your own.
Remember timelines are bullshit.
That’s right. Timelines are complete and utter bullshit.
Just think about it! We all start in different places, we all move through the world differently for a variety of reasons. So how the HELL are we supposed to reach the same milestones at the same time?
Short answer: It’s not possible.
Slightly longer answer: You have your own story. You want it to be yours, right? So why are you trying to follow in the footsteps of those who came before you? Or even those who are currently walking alongside you?
Maybe your love story happens at 32, not at 24 like your best friend. Maybe your career takes off at 26 and your best friend finally decides what they want to do at 35. Are these things less meaningful because they happened at different ages? No. Because if it is what you both wanted, who cares when it happens?
The point is it happened at all.
In the end, comparison never really helps us too much because we are all on such different journeys. We all are made up of different histories. Besides, if we all followed the same path, how boring would life be? What would we talk about with one another if we were doing the exact same thing? Where would the great stories come from if we already read the book ourselves?
This is all to say: It’s your damn life. Own it. Stop giving the pen away and write your own success story. The world needs it.
But, mostly, you deserve to lead a life you truly want to live. Anything else would be such a waste.