Yesterday I talked about the crippling effect that comparison has had in my life and the lives of people around me, and today we’re getting down to the tricky part: how do we stop killing ourselves with comparison? Here are a couple ideas I have come up with. There’s no order to them and they are by no means comprehensive, but take a look and let me know what you think. I would love to hear from you about how you conquer comparison in your life!
1. Stop listening to the lies that say you aren’t good enough. I know – easier said than done, right? But for me, I had to make the conscious decision to stop like living like the underdog when in reality I am just as awesome as everyone else. It wasn’t an instantaneous change, but making that decision set me on the right track. Whenever I find myself comparing my career, relationships, or accomplishments with others, I have to stop myself and make the choice to think differently. It can be a constant battle sometimes, but the more I stop myself from comparison, the easier it gets, and I eventually started noticing that I was doing it less frequently as time went by.
2. Let go of expectations. This is a really important thing to do: ask yourself if there are any times when someone has put false expectations on you. Maybe your grandma makes comments about how she thinks you wasted your college degree, or maybe your family members hassle you about not having kids. Forgive them and let it go. The choices you make may not be the choices that others approve of, but their happiness is not your responsibility. As Bill Cosby once said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
3. Be part of a positive community. If you are surrounded by people who tear you down so they can feel better about themselves, it’s time to get some new friends. Seriously. You need to be living in a community of people who build you up and encourage you to be yourself. It may be scary to step out and try to meet new people, but it can be done. Join a book club, volunteer at a charity, check out a church small group – there are tons of opportunities. Go where positive people are. If you don’t have anyone to encourage and support you in life, you will end up going back to those old mindsets in no time.
4. Take time to heal. If you find that you can’t believe that you are a good person because of things that others have done or said to you, it might be a good idea to find someone who can help you discover the truth about who you really are. Get counseling, talk to your pastor, take a weekend retreat by yourself or with some friends who you can share your heart with. Take time to process the pain, forgive people who have hurt you in the past, and acknowledge past mistakes and forgive yourself. Make the decision to not let the past define you anymore.
5. Be proactive. Instead of worrying about the negatives, try to focus on the positives instead. If you find that you usually compare yourself to others in certain areas, find a way to turn it around. For instance, I struggle with comparing myself to the successes of other artists. To combat that, I have to choose to see myself as part of a community of fellow artists – we’re in this together, not in competition. When I see other artists as equals instead of trying to figure out if I am better or worse than them, that takes away the need for comparison. There’s room in this world for their art as well as mine, because we all have unique was of expressing beauty and it connects with different people. Then I am able to celebrate their successes instead of getting bogged down by jealousy or bitterness.
Also, it may help you to take some time to identify things that jump-start comparison for you. If reading fashion magazines makes you freak out about your looks, then maybe it’s time to stop reading them for a while. For me, if I spend more time doing a certain thing (surfing the net, watching TV, etc.) rather than creating, I know I need to take a break from that thing for a while. “Everything in moderation” is a good way to go, I think.
6. Separate what you do from who you are. Remember: what you do does not define you. If you try something and it doesn’t work out, that doesn’t make you a failure. When someone says no to your idea/product/creation they are not saying no to you as a person, they just don’t like your idea. That’s okay! Find someone who does like it, or find a new idea. I know that it can be hard when people don’t understand or embrace what you have to offer, but you have to learn to be okay with that. Sometimes your idea needs work. Sometimes people just have bad taste. Keep working at it – don’t stop being who you really are and doing what you love just because someone else doesn’t get it.
Okay, I’ve given my two cents, now it’s your turn to weigh in! All three of you that read my blog! ;) How do you overcome comparison?
P.S. I feel like maybe I should add that constructive criticism and evaluation are very different from comparison. I think it is totally fine to look at something you’ve created and decide if you have done your best or if there is room for improvement. The danger is when you look at something you’ve done and compare it to someone else’s work in order to decide if it is (or if you are) any good or not.