Part 1 of 8: Mental Decluttering and Mindset Shifts
Part 2 of 8: Skip the Should, Find your Why
Part 3 of 8: Compare and Despair, Don’t Go There
Part 4 of 8: Assumption Junction, What’s your Junction?

 

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

It’s a common thing we do: comparing who we are and what we do to others.

Comparison is natural too. We do it for many legitimate and valuable reasons. I suspect it goes back to our tribal tendencies and the desire to fit in, to determine friend or foe, and to understand relationships. To compare and contrast allows us to categorize, to assess, and to understand where something fits. It’s an assessment of one thing against the other and in many cases it’s a critical tool to creating connection to the world.

And with it comes judgment, which in its most basic sense is quite normal and not necessarily damaging either. When you compare two pieces of fruit, you judge their texture and ripeness and, in this case, you are choosing the better option that will ideally be the one that tastes better and potentially offers more nutrients. When you compare pastries at a bakery, you are deciding what appeals to you in that moment and what temptation to indulge in based on your cravings. When you compare clothes in your closet, you might be assessing what to keep or how to categorize them. In this context, comparisons and judgments are useful and encouraged.

The challenge is when we do this same comparison with ourselves to others AND bring judgment with that. And not just judgment – VALUE judgment.

It’s one thing if we’re comparing how we look or act to see where we “fit in” with a group of people. We do this at school and work. It’s how we make friends. But when you add the judgment beyond the “how are we alike” factor that is when comparison fast tracks you to dissatisfaction, or worse.  

Adding insult to injury, we rarely just compare, we compare unfairly. You’ve seen the meme, right? Your everyday life will never compare to someone’s highly edited highlight reel.  The biggest culprit? Social Media.

UNIVERSAL STANDARDS, GUARANTEED DISAPPOINTMENT

As Zygmunt Bauman explains: “We live in a world of communication – everyone gets information about everyone else. There is universal comparison and you don’t just compare yourself with the people next door, you compare yourself to people all over the world and with what is being presented as the decent, proper and dignified life. It’s the crime of humiliation.”

So given our ability to connect universally (which is amazing and can be a wonderful thing from a humanitarian standpoint) we now have so many more people by whom we judge ourselves. And you know that online the truth component is often limited, but somehow we still accept it.

Celebrities are more accessible than ever. And many times everyday people become “celebrity” by their time on social media. They create their own videos and have gorgeous Instagram accounts. The perceived perfection is overwhelming. Then there are the messages being sent by the advertising and marketing industries who don’t just rely on our feelings of “not enough-ness” but they pointedly prey upon them.

COMPETITION OR CONFIDENCE BUSTER?

Comparison can be a challenge whether you’re competitive or lacking confidence.

If the circumstances are right, you can be inspired by others. Great people can make you want to be great too. Success leaves clues and using those who do well as a personal goal is fantastic. I highly recommend it. I surround myself with capable and goal-oriented people regularly.

But it can shift in the wrong direction so fast and I know this because it happens to me too, despite knowing what I know and coaching what I coach!

As a matter of fact, it happened just recently. There is another professional organizer whom I’ve met through industry groups. She is a true professional. Capable. Smart. Helpful to others. Her attitude and approach are similar to mine. We are kindred spirits and I’m a huge fan. She has a long-standing blog, has presented at our professional association’s conference, and has just written a book! As a matter of fact, I’ll be featuring her on my Facebook page and here in the future. She inspires me!

Yet, I also quickly found myself lamenting a bit with regard to her. “How does she do it all?” “I feel like a hot mess compared to her.” “How can I get to where she’s at, it feels so far away?” So many thoughts swirled in my head about wanting to be further along and just not feeling up to par somehow. I didn’t even mean for it to be negative – it was actually more feeling frustrated.

Then as I was singing her praises to someone else, that person so very simply said, “Well, you know she’s much further along in her business than you are.”

<silence>

I paused and thought about that. I had gone down the comparison rabbit hole and that one comment helped snap me out of it. Yes! She has significantly more experience than I do and a completely different life. She is a completely different person. Is she a great source of inspiration? Absolutely! Does it make sense to compare myself to her? No, not at all. But I did. And thankfully through a simple conversation I was able to gain clarity and perspective about it.

Comparison is natural and has its place, but it’s all too common to find dissatisfaction with your life when you do it.

So what can you do?

  • ALL THE FEELS – Notice how you feel when you are naturally drawn to compare. Are you encouraged or discouraged? Inspired or expired? If it’s positive and driving, keep going. If it’s not, it’s time to distract and redirect from it.
  • EYES ON YOUR OWN PAPER – Create an environment that doesn’t promote quite so much comparison. Turn off the notifications.  Avoid the channel.  Move on! Wish them well with their “perfect” life and focus on creating the life you want.
  • BLOOPER REELS – Imagine the behind-the-scenes. I don’t mean see them in their underwear. LOL I suppose that technique was helpful years back and, thinking about it now, the concept is a bit similar. In other words, they are human too. What went wrong? What’s REAL? Don’t let the highlight reel sucker you in.
  • YOU DO YOU – Embrace who you are and that you’re uniquely YOU. There is no other like you, so how will gauging who you are and what you do to someone else serve you? That’s all that matters. Here’s where it’s good to be self-centered.

And, if you must compare…then compare who you are to your future self. That’s the best inspiration there is.

“Compare yourself to yourself and say, ‘How can I be better? How can I be the real me?’” -Carson Kressley

About the STOP SAYING SHOULD SERIES

In the Stop Saying Should Series, I’m focusing on a list of 7 items that sabotage our happiness and productivity. These are things like saying “should” and comparing ourselves and our lives to others, as well as skipping the self-care and assuming what others think. The full collection can be found in this free inspiration sheet, but I believe each one deserves its own spotlight, so I’m dedicating this series to that.

Through my own development and my experiences with clients, I’ve found negative self-talk to be a mindset killer. Even for those who are positive and determined, how they treat themselves and perceive things can be a silent threat that sabotages all they are trying to do. That is why I wrote “Stop Saying Should” and how the list flowed freely from me. It started with that simple, but potent, phrase.