5 Ways to Set Yourself Free from the Comparison Trap

My horse Luna stopping for a drink

Luna’s favorite spot for drink after we ride.

**Disclosure: My Yoga and this post is sponsored by the GaiamTV

“One reason why birds and horses are not unhappy is because they are not trying to impress other birds and horses.” ― Dale Carnegie

Recently, a friend and I were discussing age and mirrors. If you’re over 25 you might relate to this. We discussed how stopping and glancing in the mirror often makes you feel like crap, or even shocked.

Why?

This has nothing to do with loving ourselves, or self-acceptance, or self-loathing. This is about feeling the same as we did when we were 25, and then comparing that to the image we see in the mirror.

It reminded me that this is what we do when we look at other people’s lives.

They become our mirror.

We rise in the morning full of energy, happiness, and hope. We feel grateful for what we have and for our family and friends.

But then we check Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Klout.

Just kidding about Klout.

All of a sudden, we feel we aren’t doing or being enough. We compare looks, jobs, family, houses, friends. It’s not anyone’s fault. People have always tried to out-do others. The world was full of show-offs way before the internet and social media. And really, we shouldn’t judge another person’s heart and motives – well, unless they are a known douche-bag. But douche-bags have always been around, too, doing douchey stuff.

I’m only saying this because I’ve done it. I’ve made the mistake of comparing my life to someone else’s life.

I’ve learned that if you’re not careful, even if you’re in a good place mentally and emotionally, you can end up in a dark place. A sad place. An ungrateful place.

Funny how those feelings are often energy-suckers. We feel bad and unmotivated, and maybe even hopeless. That can cause a turn to unhealthy ways to feel better. It’s a vicious cycle.

So how can we turn around that negative habit of comparing?

Here’s what helps me:

1: Realize that we don’t know the whole story: We only see what people show us. So to assume someone’s life is so much better than ours is just as bad as assuming it’s so much worse.

2: Become your own mirror: I’m a fan of self-improvement. Again, that’s not to be confused with self-loathing. The only person it’s okay to compare yourself to is you.

3. Seek a physical outlet: Lately for me this has been a sort of trifecta of activities: horseback riding, my yoga, and weight training. In my opinion, doing just one of those isn’t enough because they all have something different to offer. Just so it’s clear, there are days where I only have time for one, or only a few minutes for each.

4. Start and end the day with meditating on gratitude: It could be for a few minutes or an hour. It can be done at lunch or while waiting in line at school pick-up. It’s really whatever works for you (although I’ve found starting your day with a thankful heart can change a potentially crappy day to a great one.) My truck is my favorite place to do this. I tend to have a hard time sitting still, but when I’m moving my mind and heart fire up.

5. Live in the present: I’m constantly working on this one. But when I pause and just soak up the moment, opening my heart and listening for what I need to hear, it brings me an unbelievable peace. I feel gratitude wash over me.

I think comparing ourselves to others is part of the human condition, so no need to beat ourselves over the tendency. But, being conscious of it and taking those thoughts and words captive will bring you so much joy and peace.

Do you find yourself falling into the comparison trap? What’s your way to escape it?

Comments

comments

Comments

  1. Wise words Joyce. I have to say not comparing myself to others is something I learned early on (unlike other lessons, which I didn’t quite get until my 40s). Every person and every family has weird stressful stuff going on that very little people know about. I personally see Facebook as a cocktail party and therefore appreciate if most are mainly sharing their positive bits, it makes me happy, not envious. The other thing about comparison is many people don’t stop and think about the person’s path they are not seeing. There is often very hard work and dedication behind success yet I see so much jealousy about “luck” from individuals who quite frankly spent their earlier life partying and carousing while others were building up their career and savings. Luck is only beneficial if you’re ready for it.

    • The last thing (accidentally posted before pau) is debt. Behind those fancy cars, homes and designer bags is often debt or meager savings. And really those types of things beyond basic needs are not the key to happiness anyway.

      • Joyce Cherrier says:

        Great points Tania! Especially about debt. We really don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Not only was this beautifully written and wise, but it kinda cracks me up because I think you in particular seem like someone whom a lot of people might look at and feel like ‘whoa, how come SHE figured out how to do everything so well? Why can’t i figure out how to get in great shape and live my dreams and have such wonderful relationships with family and friends?” ( Because despite all the hard work that goes into making a life like yours, you do manage to make it seem so natural and unforced.)

    So it’s almost kind of a relief to hear that you have struggled with this too in the past!

    I know the older i get, the easier it is to see how fortunate I am. Let’s see how that goes though once I get into the Depends and walker years…

  3. Joyce Cherrier says:

    Thank you Crabby! From an incredible writer like yourself – that made my night!

    Although I like the idea I make it look easy, there’s some days I can’t even find a matching pair of socks. Oh, and just think – we’ll both be in depends at about the same time. 🙂

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