Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Despite a lot of advice to the contrary, comparing yourself to other people can be very good.
No, I’m not just trying to be original and attention-grabbing by flipping conventional wisdom around. I’ve got something to say.
I share a birthday with designer extraordinaire R. Buckminster Fuller, and interestingly enough, he was very particular about words. I am too. If we are all using words correctly, then we all understand exactly what is being said. It's important! Words have life.
It makes us powerful with consistency and clarity.
Do you remember back in grade school, they gave out a never-ending supply of “Compare and contrast” worksheets? Do you know why they made a distinction? Because Compare means to find the similarities, and Contrast means to find the differences (like white contrasts on black).
This is why I say that sometimes it’s actually very good to compare yourself to other people. Why?
1. Most basically, being able to see ourselves in others is the foundation of empathy. Without empathy, of course, connections with other people are difficult and…not very meaningful..at best.
2. Comparing yourself with others allows you to have a realistic view of yourself. It allows you to get out of your own head and notice that you are a “normal” human being (inasmuch as anyone is “normal”).
3. If you can find the similarities with others, especially people you want to emulate, it creates a basic foundation to start working with. Plus, it makes your goals feel entirely possible because, well, someone else did something similar with things that you have!
4. You start to notice gifts and talents that you have that you may not have even realized you have. I started this blog because someone else compared me to themselves and told me I should do it! 😊
So comparing yourself can actually be an incredibly healthy and helpful tool!
Similarly, contrast can be a healthy and helpful tool as well, if used right. For example, when we contrast why something worked versus why something failed, it helps us to troubleshoot life.
But of course, we all know that comparing and contrasting can be used destructively too:
1.) When we use comparison and contrast for defeatist self-talk: “I’m just like so-and-so, they never made something of themselves and neither will I” or “I don’t have g, h, or i, so I can’t do r, s, or t”. Worse, when you take this too far, it becomes:
2.) A Completely Unrealistic Standard Based On Edited Images and Pedestalling People By Believing They Are The Impossible: Perfection: This of course leads to failure every time.
Every time I’ve done this, I either found myself frozen and unable to get myself to do any action at all (because deep down I knew there was no way I could ever be perfect, so it was the perfect (ha) excuse not to do anything since I would just expose myself as the failure I believed myself to be), OR, carry a constant feeling of shame, inadequacy, frustration, and intense self-criticism/self-hatred for everything I *did* attempt.
Because I wasn’t “perfect like so-and-so”, I had further proof of my all-encompassing inferiority to carry around in my head. Of course this is unhealthy!
So what do you do if you’re in the bad habit of using comparing and contrasting destructively instead of constructively?
A.) Now that we are aware that we do it, let's remember to catch ourselves in the act by being vigilant. It can be so hard because this kind of thing can be as natural and ingrained as breathing--we’re usually compared and contrasted to others from the time we are born. So just realizing what we are doing when we are doing it is an important first step.
B.) And obviously, once we realize what we’re doing while we are doing it, we can change course immediately!
This is great because we can literally flip the script using the corresponding positive comparison and contrast to replace a negative one!
Kind of similar to “counting your blessings”, we realize that, realistically, things aren’t quite as earth-shattering or perfect (whatever the case may be) as they seem.
Sometimes it really is that simple.
We can wallow and destroy ourselves, or we can feed ourselves helpful thoughts and LIVE.
Because catching ourselves when we are doing the negative self-talk can be super difficult, especially at first before it is habit, and because it usually happens in highly emotional, involved moments when we’re caught up in what’s happening (and not trying to stand outside of ourselves and be as collected and rational as possible), it can help to, well, to practice being calm, cool, and collected! RESPOND, DON’T REACT with all emotional guns firing! This involves caring less, not taking things so seriously, and walking away when our boundaries are violated.
Another trick that is a boon to this practice is to have visual aides.
A “vision board” can be made on a literal piece of board or even plain paper, with pictures drawn and/or pasted on it of the positivity and good things that we want to get and that we already have and want to keep in life; we can write them down; we can have a mental catalog of them; or all of the above!
The important thing is to think about them often so that when things get messy, you have something positive to focus on to stay grounded. It’s a way to make positive self-talk and positive thinking a habit by having something real to hold onto.
It makes this lifestyle and attitude seem more real because you have pictures and/or words to hold in your hand, you can *see* them.
Our thoughts seem to attract things into the real world. So do our feelings, that’s the other half of this. It’s easy to feel bad, it happens spontaneously and often. But the brain is a powerful thing. We can choose to randomly feel good by focusing on good feelings.
Studies have shown that just by the act of smiling, even for no reason at all, or by looking at smiles, we feel happier!
If we focus on the feelings that we want to feel (security, joy, gratitude, peace, love, fun, adventure, success), not only do we attract those things, but we become more aware, more attuned to opportunities to feel them as we go through our days!
"Manifesting [Making things happen] is the business of being in the feeling of it."
I hope you find many positive things to focus on today!
“May the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows” –Jason Monraz
Which is a lovely way of saying, However wonderful today has been, the best is yet to come!
I am so proud of you!
All My Love!