As an author of an upcoming book, I’ve compared my writing to other authors over the years and felt desperately inferior.
Most self-help articles, books, and advice I’ve read encourage me to stop comparing myself to others.
“To compare is to despair,” they say.
And because I’ve experienced the pain of looking at other people’s successful careers, marriages, possessions, and more, and felt like I was failing in comparison, I’ve tried in earnest to follow that advice.
But recently, I realized that comparison itself isn’t actually a problem at all. In fact, it can be a powerful tool for personal growth!
Here’s what I mean.
To compare is inevitable.
If we are perceptive, aware people, we’re naturally going to notice those around us and take note of how they are different from us. Social comparison is a hardwired into our brains. It’s called “self-other mergence” and it takes place in the frontal cortex.
We aren’t likely to stop.
And this act of comparison, in itself, is nothing to despair about.
But it’s that next step that often happens after the noticing that’s problematic: the feeling less than. She’s got more money than I do. He has more followers on social media than I do. She’s thinner. He’s happier. And I’m falling short.
However, I believe there is a way we can use comparison to our advantage. Often a shift in our perspective is all we need to change our experience of life. This is how I’m shifting my perspective about comparing myself to others:
To compare is to research.
Instead of feeling envious of others or bad about myself because I don’t possess whatever it is I’m noticing that someone else has, I consider it research.
The more I notice what the people around me do, be, and have, the clearer I become about what I want to do, be, and have. Sometimes I have an initial hit of envy and then realize, actually, I don’t really want that.
Or maybe I notice my envy and then realize that means I’ve identified something I want. That’s great! That means I have goals to work toward, dreams to pursue, passions to follow. What a gift! I love having goals!
I thrive when I’m striving ever forward, and this, again, is a perspective shift. I could lament that I don’t have everything I want, or I don’t have what he or she has, but I’d rather have passionate pursuits than already possess everything I’ll ever want in my life. That would be boring.
Make the shift from competition to cooperation.
Comparison can give us clues to what we like, what we want, and how to get it. And when we see what others have, we know what’s possible for ourselves.
Here’s my advice:
Instead of “I’m not good enough” try to insert these thoughts:
“I’m working on it.”
“I’ll get there too.”
“I’m on my way.”
“It’s good to have a role model.”
“I’m grateful for what I have/who I am/where I am.”
We’re all in this together, folks. If I see you accomplish something, that means it can be done! When I see how beautiful other women are (you are all so beautiful!), I appreciate the qualities that make us each unique, and do my best to mentally acknowledge the special traits I have. The world would be a bland place if we all looked alike.
By making the mental shift from competition to cooperation, we can switch the story in our heads from one of envy to one of appreciation. And we can harness the power of comparison to propel us toward our dreams.
Originally published at learnevolveandthrive.com as part of a series called 10 Powerful Techniques + Practices To Cultivate an Abundant Mindset.
I invite you to check out my new book, The Joy Plan, now available for pre-order. Publisher’s Weekly calls it “an energized and informative plan for transforming your life.”
The Joy Plan is a memoir about the neurobiology of joy and how to apply it to your own life. It’s also about a whole bunch of things I’ve always wanted to understand, and you probably have to. Like, when people say, “Don’t worry, be happy,” HOW DO YOU ACTUALLY DO THAT AND WHY DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK???
Find out more at TheJoyPlan.com.
Originally published at medium.com