It is a common inclination to compare ourselves to others. Sometimes comparison can give us the push we need to strive harder, but often it makes us feel like we are lacking. If we see someone driving a better car, we want an upgrade. If our friends have a bigger house, we feel shame about our smaller home. If we see kids sitting in a restaurant calmly listening to their parents, we feel we have failed as parents.
It is a never-ending-hamster wheel of wanting, envying, and seeking. The more we compare, the more we want, and the more we feel shame. It seems that no matter how hard we try, what we have is never enough to satiate us. There is always someone who has done it better, gets more, and seems to have it all together. We fall short at every turn, and it isn’t a good feeling.
The bigger, better mentality sets us up for failure every time. The truth is, we are losers once we enter the comparison race.
Firstly, there is always someone who is better at what you’re doing, who looks better in those pair of jeans, or whose hair never gets frizzy no matter what the weather. With the number of people on the planet, it doesn’t take that much looking around to find someone who will always have what you want, will do it better than you, and will look better while doing it.
Secondly, most of what we see in life is the ultimate optical illusion. The smiling faces on Instagram, those moms who step out of the car looking like they are ready to pose for a magazine, the people who seem to float through life on a cloud of ease…. things are not always as they seem. What if that mom suffers from body issues? What if that kid who is smiling on Facebook was just promised a huge scoop of ice cream to sit still and smile? What if that person who seems to have it all together goes home and cries every night? Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors, so what you are seeing is simply what others choose to let you see. Sometimes the grass looks greener on the other side because it isn’t real grass.
Comparing ourselves to others is something we all struggle with, but if we think about it, it’s a waste of time and energy. At the end of the day, it will always make us feel bad about ourselves. What happens as a result? We feel inferior to others and try to figure out a way to feel like we’re good enough.
Ever wonder why there is so much mom-shaming? Why kids bully other kids? Is it because we are all such terrible people? Sure, there are some rotten apples; however, a big root of the problem is that people lash out and make others feel bad about themselves in a desperate attempt to feel better about themselves. There is a reason why envy is one of the deadly sins. It is an epidemic, and it seems to only be getting worse.
What is the solution? Stop comparing yourself to others. Instead, compare yourself…to yourself.
Unlike comparing ourselves to others, trying to be the best versions of ourselves is healthy and productive. Instead of being paralyzed with shame and envy about a contest we can never win, we can try to make our own grass greener.
The only power we have in this world is over ourselves and our lives.
Instead of focusing on others, we can wake up each day willing to learn and grow. Striving to be the best versions of ourselves doesn’t mean striving for perfection. It means understanding that we have faults and fears and insecurities and weaknesses, but we can give ourselves a gentle nudge to work on our own issues and find comfort and acceptance within ourselves.
This is no easy task. Comparing ourselves to others, albeit painful, also requires no effort. We can simply point our fingers at others and tread in waves of despair. To take a cold, hard look at ourselves, roll up our sleeves, and figure out what we can do to make ourselves feel better? That takes hard work, courage, awareness, and lots of perseverance.
Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side, and sometimes it is not. There is nothing any of us can do about that. We can have the strength to work on the parts of ourselves that we can change and give ourselves grace and compassion along the way.
Therefore, I am conceding the comparison war. There will always be better. The good news is that I have an opportunity to be better today than yesterday and better tomorrow than today. I can be the winner of my own contest each and every day. That’s good enough for me.