The comparison trap.
It’s what we fall into every time we focus on what others do or have in their lives, and we make that mean something about us.
In this episode, we talk about the dangers of comparison, how it’s keeping us from fully living our lives, and most importantly, what we can do to keep comparison from holding us back.
The full episode:
Hey everyone. This is Beyond Happy and I’m Becky Hoschek. I’m a life coach. I’m a wife. Mom of three. I work from home, and have created a business that allows my family to be my priority while chasing my dreams. I love God and my family. And, whether it’s here on the podcast or working 1:1 with clients, I LOVE helping people learn about themselves and learn tools that help them create the life they dream about. The life they feel called to. A life beyond happy… a life that is meaningful and fulfilling. It’s literally my dream job and I’m so thankful to be here, learning and sharing and teaching and serving you with valuable content that I know can change your life. Because it’s changed mine.
If you’re brand new to Beyond Happy, I’m SO glad you’re here. Welcome! You can jump right into this episode if you’d like to hit the ground running. If you’d like a little intro to my approach to coaching and the types of tools I teach, I would love for you to listen to episodes 2, 3 and 4 where we talk about circumstances, thoughts and feelings. While they aren’t necessary for connecting to this episode today, they do lay a nice foundation for many concepts I talk about around here.
So let’s get started! It’s the first day of March 2019 right now and I can’t believe it. But here I am, sitting criss-cross applesauce in my office chair with my Yeti full of hot coffee in hand, and I am ready for all things March. February was a long year you guys, but we made it. I feel myself saying this all the time but I swear it was just Christmas like last week, so I’m struggling to wrap my mind around the calendar that is showing March 1. Whaaat?! My birthday is in just a couple of weeks, so that’s exciting. I unashamedly love my birthday. But you know what’s even better? The. TIME. Change. 10 days. 10 glorious days away. The end of daylight savings time is a much celebrated holiday in my home.
Something happens to me when the page of the calendar turns to a fresh new month. And I wonder if the same thing happens to you. I start to compare. Evaluate. I think… okay, two months into the new year, it’s already March… I start to look at what’s happened. What hasn’t. What I’ve produced or gotten done, and what I haven’t. Where I wanted to be by March 1st, and where I really am. Or am not. I compare. I compare reality to what I want it to be or intended it to be. And I’ve started wondering how well that comparison is serving me. Is serving US.
And that led me to create today’s episode. Because we hear a lot about comparison to other people, especially in the world of social media, but comparison can be an internal battle as well.
I read a daily devotional in the mornings, and no kidding, I flipped it open to read today’s message and in part, it said:
“Stop judging and evaluating yourself, for this is not your role. Above all, stop comparing yourself with other people. This produces feelings of pride or inferiority, sometimes a mixture of both.” It talks about how each one of us is lead on a path uniquely tailor-made for him or her. Comparing is not only wrong; it is also meaningless. That excerpt is written by Sarah Young, and is in the Jesus Calling devotional that I adore reading in my morning quiet time.
I read today’s message a few times. Comparing is not only wrong; it is also meaningless.
And yet we all do it, right?
I’m here to help you move past the things that are holding you back. And comparison might be one of yours. I’m not sure if this is a bigger problem for women than men, I honestly haven’t researched that, but I work with a lot of women, and the struggle is huge. We compare our lives, our progress, our success and our trials to someone else’s. We compare how we look and how we feel. We compare our marriages and friendships and parenting. And it gets us stuck. So stuck it can be paralyzing.
We compare ourselves to our neighbors, our in-laws, the people on TV, the influencers we follow online, that one family at church, the guy at the gym and the woman at the grocery store. We compare ourselves to co-workers, to acquaintances and to complete strangers. And it traps us.
Comparison traps us because it stops us. Instead of looking within, trusting our own instincts and faith and beliefs about who we are and what’s important to us, we look at what everyone else is doing. We do it literally, when we’re out the in world, interacting with other people socially, and we for sure do it online. Mindless scrolling is what it’s all about. We become addicted to consuming content all about what everyone else is doing, saying, wearing, buying, reading and eating. Where they’re traveling, how they’re living, and comparing it to how we’re not. We like to see it as inspiration, but is it really inspiring us? Do you walk away from those binge-scrolling sessions feeling refreshed and uplifted? Or defeated and hopeless, or even judgmental and self-righteous?
See, when we’re consumed by consuming others’ lives, we’re leaving little time for fully living our own. When hours of our days are spent getting up to date on what he said or what she posted, we’re focusing less and less on ourselves and what’s right for US. What’s important to US. From prayer time and intentional quiet time to family time, to having conversations with our spouses and kids and friends by looking them in the eye rather than down at a screen, we’re handing over that precious time to be dictated by cultural norms and expectations. And don’t get me wrong – I’m not anti social media. At all. I think the community and connection social media lends itself to CAN be incredible and invaluable. But I do think we have to stay vigilant and be very self-aware about what we’re consuming and why. Let’s think about who we’re following, what we’re reading and even buying and when consider if it is serving us well in the path to living the best life we can imagine.
When we’re comparing ourselves to others, we’re getting lost in their lives, and we forget to enjoy our own. And that’s a big price to pay.
It’s so easy for us to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. We develop an urgency to need to know what others are doing because we have a fear of missing out or a fear that we’re not doing it the right way. And by it, I mean anything and everything. Our personal development and growth often fall by the wayside because we live in fear of not being like everyone else. We might set a goal that we want to learn something, and then we enroll in all the possible courses we’ve seen that have to do with this thing, and we take all these classes at once because we don’t want to be behind; we want to know and do all the right things and we want to know what that is right now. But then this new shiny thing isn’t looking so shiny anymore, and whether it’s improving a marriage or starting a business or losing some weight, we start to drift away from our goals and over to the land of “let’s see what everyone else is doing”. And maybe he’s already seeing big results and has completed all the course material, and she’s already launched her website or lost 20 lbs., and there you are. In the same place. Still. Because rather than diving in, staying in your lane and doing the work, you glanced over. You glanced over at her in the lane next to you, and you made her successes mean something. You made them mean something not just great for her, but something bad for you. So you gave up. You froze.
I talk a lot about thought work, and it’s important to point out that THAT is what comparison is, right? We’re CHOOSING to compare ourselves to others. We have thoughts about ourselves and because of what we’re making that mean, we then feel something that is likely negative or uncomfortable. And from that feeling, are we going to be driven to keep going? To focus forward, keep moving, do it scared and remember that we are not everyone else? That we are made for our own path? No we do not. We set ourselves up for failure the moment we say yes to comparison.
But. What IF…
What if her success didn’t mean your failure, or being behind. What if HIS results or his wins are simply there for you to see what’s possible? To show you what’s possible for YOU? Do you know that this is a thought that’s available to you right now? Right now. In this moment. Your thoughts are optional, and that means you get to choose.
You can decide that that dream house your sister just bought doesn’t mean anything about you. It’s a house. And hey, if you dream of a house like hers, let that show you what’s possible for you.
The friend who just launched her first book? You can compare and beat yourself up for not having written yours yet, or you can let her inspire you; to see it’s possible and learn from your friend’s journey getting there.
The co-worker or mom who seems to have it all together? You can let that serve as a reminder of everything you believe you’re doing wrong. That’s totally your choice. But wouldn’t it feel better to believe that 1) you’re doing your best and 2) remind yourself that NO ONE has it completely together?
Comparison will never serve you. Whether it leaves you feeling better than or less than, the consequences won’t be positive. One is rooted in pride and the other in inferiority.
Comparison creates discontentment. When you’re focused on what everyone else is doing, it’s inevitable that your own likelihood for reaching for more, for doing the things you want to create a life you love are going to be less and less realistic.
So what do we do? We are born with an instinct to evaluate and compare and judge, and it serves us in many, many ways. But what do we do when it’s holding us back? Here are a few practical tools we can step out of the trap of comparison.
- Know your priorities. Just as you are uniquely created and one-of-a-kind, your personal set of values and priorities are not going to look like everyone else’s. And they shouldn’t. But often, when we compare, our priorities get out of whack because we start to believe that things that are important to other people should also be important to us. We question ourselves and what we want for our lives when we do this. But guess what? Not everyone is going to want a huge home that looks like the pages of a magazine spread. Not everyone is going to want to climb the corporate ladder, or drive a Mercedes or travel the world. Not everyone is going to have a heart for that specific mission in Africa, or for saving the honeybees or for homeschooling their kids. Just because it’s for someone else, it doesn’t mean it’s for YOU. And it’s not supposed to be. When you get really clear on your own values and priorities, you can rest in that and TRUST in those rather than looking for affirmation outside of yourself. You can also then joyfully celebrated others’ wins and lives without needing to compare and contrast to your own. And that is freedom.
- Know who you are. This is gonna go keep because it is a deep question. We are led by what or who we let lead us. Where do you find your identity? Is it in the house you live in or the car you drive? Is it in your accomplishments? Your relationships? Why this matters is because who you truly believe you are will either allow you to see beyond the comparison trap and help you to remove yourself from it, focusing on who you are and were made to be, OR it will propel you forward seeking affirmation and meaning from the world. This is one reason I am really intentional about beginning my day in quiet time. Whether it’s prayer or reading a devotional, or both, it starts my day reminding me who I am and am not, and it keeps me rooted there. And do those comparison urges still come? Yes, yes they do. Because I’m human and that urge is just there. But I can catch myself so much quicker. I can speak truth to myself and reign it back it before it steals minutes and hours from my day.
- Compare you to… you. A research study showed that the older a person gets, the less likely they are to compare themselves to others. They’re less likely to seek that outside confirmation. What they also found was that, with that, the happiest, most fulfilled people compared themselves to… themselves when seeking to make improvements. It speaks to the joy and really encouragement that comes from comparing our progress to our own progress, and not anyone else’s. It’s not that these people don’t look to others for inspiration or motivation, because at times they for sure do. But they don’t let what others are doing impact their own worth, their own self-esteem. And I love this. I think this speaks to why I’ve loved by 30s so much. The older I get, the less concern I have about what others are doing or buying or
wearing and I also care less about what others think of what I’m doing or buying or driving. It’s that incremental process of being reminded what really matters, and what really doesn’t. We don’t have to compare ourselves to anyone. It just takes many of us awhile to figure this out.
- Don’t judge the reality of someone else’s life. We see someone else’s life from the outside… whether it’s online or in real life. We make dangerous assumptions about what we know about them, or don’t. We might be seeing just a SLIVER of that person’s full life, and we may decide it looks perfect. They have it altogether, they are blissfully content and in love with their life. Be very careful in choosing to believe this. I think we romanticize the lives of others when in reality, everyone is fighting some kind of battle. Everyone is dealing with something you likely know nothing about. How do I know? First, because that’s life. A mix of positive and negative. For me, for you and for the seemingly perfect person on Instagram. We have different lives, different experiences and different challenges, and we for sure might be handling those very differently, but just remember, there are likely VERY few people on earth whose true, authentic life in all it’s glory you personally know completely. This is such a useful habit to cultivate because when we believe this about others’ life experience, it levels the playing field. It reminds us we’re more alike than different. It also invites compassion and connection, which serve us all so much better than comparison.
5. Count Your Blessings. Comparison often leads to complaining, right? We see what someone else has and we might feel envy. We might feel self-pity. We might feel less-than and incapable of getting what they have. And then we complain, thinking of all we don’t have. What hasn’t gone as we wanted it to. But you know what? It’s nearly impossible to have these pitying, jealous, meaningless thoughts when you are feel grateful. When you focus on all of the awesome, amazing, good things you have in your life, you’re unlikely to obsess about what you lack. Comparison and gratitude can’t coexist in your mind.
Here’s the message I want to leave you with.
Comparing yourself to someone else is always a waste of time. You might be drawn to what they HAVE, but you don’t know what it took to get them there. You don’t know the whole story. You don’t know their battles, their demons and what they went through to get there. You don’t know if that thing they have that you want is something they even value. Something that serves them well. Maybe the thing you wish you had doesn’t even phase them as being a big deal. When you compare, you see something someone else has as the trophy. The finish line. The destination. You tell yourself…
If only I looked like her.
If only I had as much money as they do.
If only I got to drive that car.
If only I had her courage.
If only I didn’t have anxiety. Or diabetes.
If only I had his job.
If only I was the mom she is.
If only I could afford what they can.
If only I could quit my job and stay at home like she did.
If only I had the number of followers that she has.
If only I had tons of friends like he does.
If only I had an awesome family like they do.
If only our kids could get into that school like theirs did.
If only we were out of debt like they are.
If only we had a marriage each like they do.
We tell ourselves these things, and you guys, we miss the point.
What you have is not nearly as important as what you DO with what you have. Think about that. What you have is not nearly as important as what you DO with what you have.
When we compare, we make the mistake of thinking that we’ll FEEL something different IF ONLY we had the thing. IF ONLY this were different. But we’re wrong. Because there will always be someone smarter, healthier, thinner, wealthier, younger, older, wiser, better at this thing or that thing. There will always be someone one step ahead of you and 10 steps ahead of you. But when you keep trying to keep up with everyone else, you’re missing out.
You’re missing out on the process. You’re missing out on your life. You’re missing out on the life right in front of you every time you look to the left, to the right, ahead of you and behind you to see what everyone else has. What everyone else is doing. You’re so busy checking out what he has and she has that you stand in the same spot. Watching. Looking. Evaluating. Comparing. You don’t move forward, how can you? You can take a step forward when you’re stuck.
If this message is hitting you at just the right time, as it did me this week, Let this be our reminder.
Your life does not look like his or hers, because you are YOU.
Your story is yours, meticulously woven for you, and if that story had a map, it wouldn’t look like anyone else’s. It’s not supposed to.
There are parts of your story you’re not going to like. There are parts of your story that you wish could be someone else’s.
And at the same time, there is someone out there dreaming, wishing that they had a life like yours.
So let’s celebrate what someone else does, gets or achieves, even if it’s something we wish we had in our life. Let’s celebrate those wins and leverage what we’ve been entrusted with – our gifts, our talents, or blessings, and use what we’ve been given to the best of our ability in our story. No matter what anyone else does, you alone are the writer of your story. Some pieces of it you’ve been handed by the narrator. Some parts of the plot you can’t control. But it is your story, and not one else can write it.
Remember, what you have is not nearly as important as what you DO with what you have.
Have the best week and I’ll talk to you soon.