It’s so tempting to compare ourselves to others. After all, life feels a little competitive doesn’t it? What easier way is there to tell if we’re winning or losing that to glance over our shoulder and see how others are doing?
The trouble is that “comparisonitis”, the urge to compare yourself to others, isn’t healthy for you and instead of making life easier all too often it makes life harder than it needs to be. So here we offer 3 reasons that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others and then we offer a better strategy to improve your life.
3 Reasons Why Comparisons With Others Aren’t A Good Idea
OK, let’s take a look at why comparing yourself to other people is a flawed strategy:
- Your comparison is based on illusory data. The glimpses of someone else’s life that you see are not their life. Their Facebook page is carefully curated to appear fantastic. The time they tell you that their band has been signed to a record label, glosses over the hundred times they were told to “get lost” by other labels. And so on… you can’t see the whole of truth when you compare.
- Life simply is not fair. This sucks, but it is an absolute fact. We don’t all start from the same place. Some people’s parents are rich and buy them advantages. Some people are born more physically attractive and get advantages given to them. And so on… we don’t like this fact very much but many times the difference between you and somebody else isn’t because of their “hard work” but because life cut them a break that it didn’t cut you.
- Comparison breeds resentment. Look if you think your friend has an easier, happier and more perfect life and you spend enough time stewing on the details – you’re going to start resenting them for it. Resentment doesn’t improve friendships, it destroys them. This is the strongest reason to avoid comparisons – in the long run it ruins relationships and can leave you isolated.
OK, so that’s the case for the prosecution and we’d like to let it rest here. What we’d like to do now is offer you an alternative kind of comparison that you can use to be an influence for good on your life and the lives of others around you.
Introducing The Temporal Comparison
A temporal comparison allows us to compare ourselves today with our future desired self or with our past self. It’s a comparison not with someone else but a comparison in time with ourselves. Why is this a better strategy?
- They can help you better understand what you want out of life and how to get it. If you see yourself in a different career, how did you get there? If you’re in a nice home surrounded by beautiful children and a loving partner, what put you there? Focusing on what you want in your future makes it easier to understand how to make that a reality.
- You can see what’s going wrong and how to fix it. When you look over your shoulder at the past you can start to ask, “what was going well then that’s not going well now?” For example, if you used to run a few miles each day but have recently stopped, you can drill down into the why and help find the motivation all over again. You can start to look for changes that aren’t bringing benefits and reverse them.
Comparing ourselves with other people is not healthy and it can not only upset us but it can destroy our friendships and relationships. Comparing ourselves with ourselves, on the other hand, but at different points in time can help us to lead a better more fulfilled life. When we bring out the best in ourselves, we can bring positive changes to others too.