Brené Brown might be my hero. I am currently reading through her book called Daring Greatly. I’m only through the preface, introduction, and first chapter, but I already feel the tug of reflection and transformation. In the first chapter, she discusses feelings of not being enough, as well as the dangers of comparing ourselves to others. Holy cow. If you see yourself in that sentence, raise your hand. I just raised both of mine.
“What makes this constant assessing and comparing so self-defeating is that we are often comparing our lives, our marriages, our families, and our communities to unattainable, media-driven visions of perfection, or we’re holding up our reality against our own fictional account of how great someone else has it. Nostalgia is also a dangerous form of comparison. Think about how often we compare ourselves and our lives to a memory that nostalgia has so completely edits that it never really existed: ‘Remember when…? Those were the days…’” (Brown, 2012, p. 26).
This whole idea of comparison has been continuously brought to my attention over the last few months. A guest speaker at a work function discussed it a few weeks ago. Discussions with friends and family. Now this book. Clearly God is trying to get my attention and shine a little light on something I struggle with on a daily basis.
To compare is “to judge, suggest, or consider that something is similar or of equal quality to something else” (Compare, 2019). I imagine someone putting me on a scale with someone else to determine who is the better, more qualified individual. I do this constantly. Is someone better than me at work? Is someone able to manage their finances in a more sustainable way? Does someone else have a better history with relationships? Is someone else better at coping with life stressors? Is someone else achieving better grades in school? Is someone else exercising more than me? Yes, yes, yes…all the way down the line. I come up wanting every single time. There will always be someone “better.”
An article by Dr. Deborah Carr (2015) says, “Some psychologists…believe that our desire to compare ourselves to others is a drive – one almost as powerful as thirst or hunger. While comparisons can be informative, they’re almost always discouraging, because someone’s always going to end up on the bottom.” For me, comparison really is a drive. I do it as easily and almost as frequently as I breathe. The question is, why do I continuously do something that only leads to low self-worth and hard hits to my already low self-confidence? I do it because I have conditioned myself to believe I am not good enough. I have allowed circumstances and events in my life to mold and shape my perspective of myself – and let me tell you…it’s not a great perspective.
But let me tell you something else…my perspective of myself is changing.
I have been through a lot. I have both experienced and caused a lot of pain. I have a lot of failures on my record. What I’m learning is this: that doesn’t make me a bad person, or one who is unworthy of respect from both myself and others. I can’t compare myself to someone else who appears to “have it all together” because their story is completely different than mine. They have their own struggles and battles that I don’t know about. The way in which nature creates a pearl is vastly different from the way in which it creates a diamond. However, pearls and diamonds are both beautiful in their own right.
When it comes down to it, I am trying to bestow on myself the same grace and kindness I so willingly heap onto others. Instead of getting down on myself because my life doesn’t seem to measure up to this other person’s life, I am trying to focus on building on my own strengths and allowing myself to like who I am. I am me. And that is good enough.
“If you commit yourself to being deeply grateful for what’s good in your life, and remind yourself of it daily, you’ll be far less vulnerable to comparison and envy” (Biali Haas, 2018).
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop comparing myself to others. It’s a natural part of human thoughts and emotions. What’s different now is that I recognize when I’m in the process of comparing myself to others, which means I can nip it in the bud and remind myself that I am my own uniquely valuable individual. I’m sure there are countless other people out there who struggle with this same thing. I see you. Remember that you aren’t alone. Maybe if you too start catching yourself in the act of comparison, you can begin the process of reconditioning your mind. We each have a lot to be grateful for. We each have amazing gifts and talents. We each deserve to be loved and appreciated for who we are, not who we are compared to anyone else.
Biali Haas, S. (2018). How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prescriptions-life/201803/how-stop-comparing-yourself-others
Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. New York, NY: Avery.
Carr, D. (2015). 3 Reasons to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/bouncing-back/201508/3-reasons-stop-comparing-yourself-others
Compare. (2019). Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/compare