How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others and Be Happy.
“I didn’t ask you to be like her or him. I asked you to be you.” ~ God
Comparison eats away at our own joyfulness.
Comparison really sucks. Maybe a blunt statement, but I am speaking here from my own experiences. I have been in agony comparing myself to others, and created stress for no reason. When I see this comparison from a distance, it is easy to tell myself, “What are you doing? Just stop it! Of course I am unique. Of course everyone is different. Of course comparing is stupid.”
And in a way, there is nothing wrong with comparison in itself, but what is stupid is what I do with it. Like getting completely stressed and tense, believing that I am worse (or better) than someone else, and non-stop circling in negative thoughts so that I feel worse and worse about myself.
We can easily lose ourselves in evaluating our social and personal worth on how we stack up against others (regarding attractiveness, social status, wealth, career, intelligence, relationship or FB Likes).
We are bombarded with photo-shopped images (from magazines, commercials and movies), on guard regarding being called fat, stupid or old, trying to look our best with the latest fashion, diet and beauty cream.
Barbie and Ken are just examples of how we are manipulated (consciously or unconsciously) in taking on these unrealistic beauty measures. From all directions, society tells us what we should do, be, have, and achieve. Comparison can easily become our second nature.
How often do you criticize yourself even when you are alone and nobody else is watching? How do you talk to yourself when you look in the mirror?
How I got lost in comparison
I know that as a small child, comparison was not on my mind. I was just happy being myself. There was all the space to be me — one moment I was playing, then laughing/crying with no care in the world. There was nobody else to compare myself with. The thought to compare didn’t even arise.
All that changed gradually — through watching TV, social expectations, and connecting with other kids. Someone at school was more clever, cute or pretty. Another kid was better or worse in drawing, writing and sports. I wore glasses at age 5, which meant I became ugly. Achievements were praised. Therefore, good points felt good, while making stupid mistakes was bad.
I started to rate myself and others according to points and accomplishments.
If only I could be like someone else. If only I could be better-looking, famous, wealthy, or someone important. How will I ever get there? I need to have the best career, relationship, happiness, sex, appearance and status, because then I will be happy.
Do you recognize yourself in some of this? When did you start to compare yourself? Can you see how much stress comparing creates?
What I needed to see about comparison
In 2016, I joined self-investigation classes and questioned my thoughts, beliefs and ideas. I came to see what this comparing is really about. And how I got stuck in the comparison game.
1. Seeing the trap of mis-identification: I was so identified with each thought about myself that each single thought I had meant something about me (mostly a negative implication). I didn’t know better. I truly believed that I (every aspect of me) was not good enough, not clever enough, not attractive enough, not talented enough.
At the same time, I also craved to be better than others (in order to feel good). My mind was in a constant struggle.
As long as I believed my thoughts to be true (for example, believing the thought that I am not good enough), I kept on comparing and trying to become this someone better or someone else, and concluding that others have more than me.
Once you come to recognize that your thoughts are not revealing truth, a new chapter of your life will unfold.
2. Realizing being stuck in the illusion of being better or worse than others: I needed to see the real uselessness of comparing myself, that in life, I will always be able to find someone who is better or worse than me (in looks, career, wealth). That is just how it is, and there is nothing to win.
The following questions made me stop in my comparison tracks:
“Do you see that a flower doesn’t compete with the flower next to it, that each flower just blooms?”
“Do you see that each comparison is an act of violence against yourself?”
It is easy to see that in nature a flower is just being the flower it is. Yet as humans, we get lost in this wanting to be like someone else.
What would happen if you bring this simple nature wisdom to your human being-ness?
3. Comparing equals wasting precious time: I have wasted so much time comparing, especially with women regarding their looks, sexiness, humor, confidence, and being at ease around men. Each time I would end up tense, emotional, and lost in my harmful, negative thoughts. Each time I created a drama story in my own head. What a waste. There is so much more to life.
Can you see that you how draining it is to compare and feel bad about yourself?
How to stop being occupied with comparison
After this self-investigation process, the same comparison thoughts still pop up, but what is different is that I know I don’t need to pay them any attention. I know to appreciate who I am. I know what I value, which is life itself.
Step 1. See reality for real, and stop feeding illusions: I learned to stop fueling stress. I came to see the stress I create by over-thinking and comparing, believing each thought to be true, being busy with being better or worse than, or by retelling myself endless stories of what happened and why.
Whenever I compare myself with someone else, I handpick one quality or aspect and give it all the importance. However, that person is not living up to my idealized image of them. My comparing is basically a lie. I need to appreciate who I am, and see how idealizing an other is merely creating a grander picture of reality.
Do you see that the preciousness of who you are is impossible to compare?
Step 2. Accepting your own uniqueness; you are always the best version of yourself: I am always the best version of myself, and nobody is better in being me. So, if I really want to compare, I can compare myself to myself (for example, how I became better in loving myself).
In each moment of life, I am with myself. I can never escape from me. So, I’d better make it a beautiful time with me (instead of the impossible wish to be someone else). I learned to be kind, caring and respectful with myself. Others can inspire me, yet I will never have anything what others have. There is no need to be like someone else.
Would you like to be kind, caring and respectful to the uniqueness you are?
Step 3. Gratitude; appreciating what is here: I learned to be grateful for the gifts and goodness that are showered on me in each moment.
Many things in life are not measurable, but are the most valuable (beyond what we think money, looks, power, prestige could give us). We often take these for granted. I am speaking here about the ordinary things in life, like blue sky, the beauty of a smile, delicious laughter, sea air, a cool breeze, hugs, lying on the grass, colors, a puppy, the beauty of nature, etc.
These gifts are always here, always free to be enjoyed.
Where is comparison when you sit watching the sunset by the ocean?
After 20 years of searching for happiness in meditation, affirmations and therapy, Nele Van Cauteren realized that she was getting nowhere. She kept circling within the same negative thoughts and feelings. Life was sometimes better and sometimes worse, but there was no true fulfillment. She kept dreaming to be happy one day, hoping for a relationship, more money and more love. In 2016, Nele discovered the self-investigation process of ShoomKloom. Here she came to see her illusions and mis-identifications in a new light. She gained the tools to be at ease with what is (in comfortable and uncomfortable situations), to know herself for real, and to be here now. It is a joy for her to share ShoomKloom with the world.