Stop Comparing Yourself to Others and Do This InsteadBy Homaira Kabir
When was the last time you compared yourself to others? Maybe you measured your career path against that of an ex-colleague who became a VP at a big company while you're still stuck doing the same boring job. Perhaps you judged your parenting skills next to your sister who's raising three wonderful kids and has a successful career while you're running around with your hair on fire with your firstborn. Or maybe you compared your appearance to a high-school classmate on Facebook—he looks like he’s been running marathons, while you're still struggling to lose the 20 pounds you put on 10 years ago.
Comparison rarely makes us feel happy about ourselves. We tend to hone in on what's great about the other person and terrible about us, a natural negativity bias that poet Anne Lamott cautions us against with her wonderful advice: "Try not to compare your insides to other people's outsides."
Take a moment to think back to the last time you compared yourself to someone. How did you feel? In my work as a women’s leadership coach, I’ve found that when we compare our lives, careers, or successes against those of others, we tend to react in one of these three ways:
Reaction #1: Justify or Blame
This reaction is about avoiding the emotional discomfort of not pursuing your goals or living according to the values you feel strongly about, while watching another person living their truth. You may tell yourself: “It’s not the right time,” or “I actually love the job I have.” Or you may blame others for your inability to be where you want to be. “My boss has it in for me,” or “I don’t have the time she does, I have to do the work of two people.”
While it may be true that your path is strewn with challenges, justifying exonerates you of the responsibility to take action, and blaming can make you cynical and negative. You may even concentrate on garnering sympathy, unconsciously seeking the approval of others for your inaction. At some stage, though, you’ll likely regret the path not taken.
Reaction #2: Beat Down and Shut Down
Some of us can feel really small when we compare ourselves to others. This is common when feelings of unworthiness or incompetence are right below the surface. You’ll know this is you if your inner critic gets loud and puts you down. “It’s not like you’re as intelligent/beautiful/smart as them.” It’ll also pick up on anything it can find to convince you of your inadequa