Imagine a gray heron swooping down on the river bank.
Its majestic wings fold neatly like a fan. A bright yellow beak atop a slender body and stick-like legs.
Now the heron treads calmly towards an unsuspecting fish.
A blackbird doesn’t have vast wings nor fishing skills— but it sings a rich song.
With its tiny beak, it can build an intricate nest, plastered with mud and lined with fine grass.
Blackbirds mercilessly defend their territory with a provoking dance.
Each bird has its strengths and attributes that make it unique. It doesn’t compare itself to another or feel inadequate.
We all know it’s unhelpful to compare and compete.
So, why is it so hard to stop comparing yourself to others? Here are 4 possible reasons.
1) You feel unworthy
Your self-worth—or the sense of your value as a person—creates the foundation for joy. When you know your worth, you:
- feel deserving of love, respect and acceptance
- ask for help when you need it
- own your “flaws” and vulnerability
- establish and respect your boundaries
- make time for rest and play
When you feel unworthy, it’s like driving a beat-up car with the gas tank nearly empty. And the bumper scraping the ground.
You don’t feel good about who you are. There never seems to be enough love or acceptance. Achievements hold you up for a bit, but disappear quickly.
This makes you prone to self-criticism; it’s why it’s so hard to stop comparing yourself to others: Why can’t I be as rich, pretty and successful as her?
Of course, you want to be happy and live your best life possible.
But when you compare yourself to others, you risk beating yourself up and feeling like crap.
Moreover, someone else will always be better than us. And we tend to make skewed comparisons between others’ strengths and our weaknesses.
Instead, marvel at nature and how each living thing has its place.
Make a list of your positive qualities with the worksheet below.
And focus on your assets.
2) You’re afraid of being rejected/abandoned
Have you heard of the inner critic?
It’s that judgmental voice in your head that says: You’re not good enough. You failed again, loser! Why did you even try?
Ironically, the inner critic sabotages you to help you do what it takes to win love, respect and approval. No pain, no gain!
You might’ve learned that to feel loved, you shouldn’t:
- show your emotions
- be clumsy, shy or selfish
- look messy or unpresentable
- make mistakes
- speak too loudly or quietly, etc.
Ultimately, the nasty habit of comparing yourself to others comes from: 1) the fear of what others think and 2) the fear of being rejected or abandoned.
We all want to belong to a community.
So much that we’re willing, with the help of our inner critic, to submit to others’ standards of how to look and act: If I can just be as _____ as her, I’ll feel accepted.
That way, we can protect ourselves from the anxiety, pain and anger that could result from being shunned.
The trade-off? We sacrifice who we are and continue to fear rejection.
So, what can we do?
It’s not easy to just stop comparing yourself to others.
First, observe your fears and past hurts that fuel the habit. Does your envy motivate or depress you?
Learn how to show yourself some compassion in my 4-week coaching program.
Remember, no one’s perfect.
3) You learned to compete
I used to envy fashion bloggers.
Their hair mimic the ocean’s waves, breathy and full. Impeccable outfits seem thrown together in minutes.
Luxurious palm trees set the stage of a carefree life.
How do they pull it off?
My life seemed dull in contrast. Though I had worked on accepting myself, the itch to compare myself to these fashion bloggers sometimes got to me.
I thought, Perhaps my husband would prefer I have a flatter belly? Or if I looked as flawless as them?
Due to certain childhood beliefs, I worried he’d leave me if I wasn’t the most beautiful woman ever. (Hello, fear of abandonment!)
It didn’t matter that my husband told me he loved me, inside and out. That I used to be an amateur fashion model. Or that I’m independent and smart.
I had learned to compete. To measure my worth based on others’ standards.
My perfectionism masked my feelings of insecurity for a while… until they eventually permeated my life anyway.
How did I overcome this?
I began by realizing how deceptive photos can be and avoiding social media.
Practicing gratitude helps too. I’m grateful for my health. I’m grateful for my friends and family. I love this willow outside my window.
I also contemplated, If I had 6 months to live, what would matter most to me?
And set my own goalposts.
4) You’ve adopted others’ values
At the root of perfectionism, you believe you’re not good enough.
That’s because, somewhere along the line, you’ve adopted others’ values. And now, you beat yourself up whenever you don’t match up.
So, reassess what’s enough to you—with this quirky exercise.
Imagine for a minute that you’re hosting some cute aliens who are visiting Earth for the first time.
After a day of sightseeing, you invite them to your home for dinner. Hearty discussion ensues; the aliens want to better understand you as a unique human being:
- What does a “good day” look like to you?
- What boosts and lowers your energy?
- What if you had an entire free day?
- Why do you do everything that you do?
- How do you want to be remembered?
Bravo, you’ve succeeded in entertaining your guests! The aliens loved learning about what makes you tick. 🙂
I hope this exercise helped you step back to get some perspective. Oftentimes, we’re so immersed in our to-do list that we don’t realize life is passing us by.
Take a deep breath.
Throughout the day, notice when you compare yourself to others.
And honor your progress.
“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” —Mahatma Gandhi
You’re human, after all
Don’t expect to stop comparing yourself to others overnight. You might never fully stop.
It’s human to always want and be more. Growth and evolution are admirable desires.
But sometimes it’s best to pause and remember: No one in the world has your specific experiences and viewpoints. Simply appreciate who you are right now.
You’ve come a long way.
When you accept where you are, true friends will meet you there.
About the author
Annie Moussu is a mindfulness-based life coach who helps women let go of perfectionism, self-doubt and people-pleasing. Sign up for her newsletter to get blog articles twice a month.
Further reading to stop comparing yourself to others: