If there is one thing we as human beings are guilty of doing on a daily basis, it is comparing ourselves and circumstances to that of another person. It happens so fast, so naturally that most of us don't even give it second thought. And the worst part? It's unhealthy, it can do nothing but bring misery and make us set unrealistic expectations and goals for ourselves.
So how do we make it stop? It all starts with changing how we think and look at the world around us.
Take note of your strengths
One of the easiest ways to derail the toxic habit of putting others on a pedestal and taking jabs at yourself is to write or make a mental note of some of your accomplishments and talents. It could be as simple as reveling in how well you reorganized that hallway closet. Maybe let yourself be grateful for your ability to talk or connect with people so easily. Remember how you got your son to try a new food (which is no small feat with his picky eating habits)? Or finally, just practice graciously accepting a compliment — instead of deflecting it. These little efforts will allow for much happier self-images as well as help you kick the habit of constantly comparing yourself with those around you.
Differences are good a thing
. So maybe you aren't the marathon runner like your neighbor down the road. So what if you're overwhelmed by the thought of throwing a Pinterest party like that mom on Facebook (who's clogging up your news feed with her creativity)? It's OK. You know why? Because you can make someone laugh, you are smart with money, you have no shame in going to the grocery store in sweatpants and slippers, you have a great smile, you know how to make a killer crème brûlée, you still have all your hair — and your spouse and children love you for it. Differences shouldn't be hidden or belittled, they should be celebrated and carefully displayed as what makes you unique. What makes you, you.
Surround yourself with people who love and accept you for you
We all have those people in our lives who love to compare and it can be a conversation killer and robber of joy. Piece of advice: Don't allow them to be a permanent presence in your life. If you don't have much control over that, tell them how you feel — or find ways to redirect the conversation. Say something like, "You know, I really wish weight wasn't such a hot topic. I feel there is more to people than their jean size. Do you mind if we discuss something else?"
You really never know someone's story
One of my favorite songs has this profound line in it: "In the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can't see." How many times have we misjudged someone or felt jealous because their life seemed so rosy and complete on the outside? I find in moments like this we need to remember this quote by Scottish author and theologian, Ian Maclaren, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
We don't know another's heart, inner struggles or pain. Each of us are doing the best we know how in this life and could use more love and fewer eyes of envy.
Be mindful of your little audiences
Remember the small eyes and ears that absorb everything we say. How is your daughter supposed to grow up with a healthy self-esteem if you are so fixated with getting your body back — no matter the cost? She will internalize that what truly matters in life is what the scales say, how her jeans fit and that having a child messes up those goals for a perfect body life. If we are wary of what we say and how it may affect the lives of little ones with whom we share our lives, it will help us nip the comparing game in the bud as well as set a better example for those we love.
Avoid or limit time with social network or blogs
. Dr. Ethan Kross, social psychologist at the University of Michigan, conducted a study where he discovered that frequent use of social media can be linked to feelings of sadness. He says, "On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection, but rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result — it undermines it."
Consider limiting the amount of time you spend on social networking sites or blogs. Also, keep in mind that what you see on Facebook is only a small moment in another person's life — so don't measure your bad day with their good one. I'm reminded of the quote by Lead Pastor Steven Furtick, "The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel."
Practice being truly happy for another person's successes
I love what Family Advocate Jeffrey R. Holland said about jealousy. "Envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! What a bright prospect that is — downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment!"
So be truly genuine in congratulating others on their good fortune. It can only add to — not lessen — your own happiness.
In a world so bent on making us feel like we never have enough or are enough, let us resolve today to be a little kinder to ourselves and those around us. For when we stop comparing our lot with our neighbors, only then will we discover a life that is richer and more complete than we ever thought possible.