Comparison: How to make sure you allow yourself a level playing field

by blogger Julia Whiting.

Theodore Roosevelt was famously quoted as saying “comparison is the thief of joy” and for me this phrase sums up the way that relentlessly comparing myself to others makes me feel.

Some days it is almost as if I am searching for reasons to put myself down by identifying desirable attributes in others that I feel I do not have. It can also be materially focussed, i.e. I relentlessly identify things/jobs/looks that others have, that I don’t. This uses up so much energy on a daily basis and takes me no closer to what/who I wish to be. If anything it holds me back and gives me excuses not to do things as I have reached the conclusion that “I am not good enough” to do them.

Does this sound like you? Have you reached a stage of feeling tired and worn out from your own inner critic? Well I am here to assure you that there is light at the end of the comparison tunnel – but a focus and desire to change your inner thinking circuits is needed.

The mind can be very convincing – it can be very one-track if you allow it. Mine certainly is! When I speak to myself (in my head as I don’t tend to talk to myself in the street – yet) I am so harsh. “You’re dumb”, “They are so much better than you”, “You’re useless”, “No-one likes you” are recurring phrases, and let’s be honest, if you spoke to your friends that way, you wouldn’t have any! Why do we treat ourselves so harshly?

So how can we overcome this?

  • The first thing is to identify what fuels the comparison and the source of the negative thoughts. Trying to remove it as much as you can will help in the initial stages of trying to positively programme your thoughts. If it is someone in your life who fuels the feeling of unworthiness, see them a little less, have a break from them until you feel strong enough to block the comparison cycle. Surround yourself with people who encourage and motivate you, this will have a profound effect. If it is the type of accounts you are following on social media that make you feel inferior, then unfollowing or deleting them will be the best thing you can do. This may seem an obvious consideration, but it can be hard to identify what triggers your downward spiral initially and therefore you should maybe keep a diary of your feelings for a few weeks, to try and identify a pattern. This might reveal a person, event, scenario or Instagram account that you probably should distance yourself from.
  • Positive and inspiring quotes really help keep me motivated and focused. They often pull me out of the illusion of negativity that I have created in my head. They can make you aware of the bigger picture that you have lost sight of. One of the first quote-heavy books I read was Treasure Yourself: Power Thoughts for My Generation by Miranda Kerr. It covers many different quotes that she lives by and how she keeps herself motivated and positive working in the modelling industry. I would strongly recommend it. Now I just keep a few quotes I have found myself, on my desk and around my house to keep me going. Ultimately quotes may not be for you, but finding some comforting tricks that you can easily get hold of or do when you feel down, is the main thing.
  • Accepting that it is okay to feel emotional sometimes seems contradictory to the purpose of this post; but I can assure you that just allowing yourself to be sad/de-motivated/angry/fed up is more than okay. I used to beat myself up for not being proactive or not being corrective of my own emotions and this just made me feel worse. When you feel inferior just allow it – feel what is happening inside you and identify with it. Work out the cause and comfort yourself. Treat yourself to something you enjoy or seek comfort in those around you, and most of all don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep! So many times I have given up on writing and blogging and then woken up the next morning with a completely new positive perspective.
  • After you have identified some of the triggers for the negative spirals and engaged with the fact that your mind could be playing some tricks on you, the next stage is to change the nature of the comparisons you have been making. Try comparing who you are now to who you were a few years ago. Think about the things you have achieved and the ways you have grown. Speak to your family and ask them how you have changed, they will see it more clearly than we can see it in ourselves. Identify something that you were scared of and did anyway. One of my biggest achievements was approaching my university newspaper and asking if I could write for them, if I hadn’t done this I wouldn’t have done half of the things I have achieved to date – and I possibly wouldn’t be writing this post for you now. Comparing yourself to your past self is a level playing field. Comparing yourself to others who have different experiences and circumstances is not a fair comparison!
  • If you find yourself looking at another person’s life, compare what you DO have that they don’t and what you HAVE experienced and they may have not. This encourages gratitude and appreciation for your experiences and your life. Everyone will have something that you don’t because everyone is unique and equally you will have something that not everyone has – so you must cherish that individuality. It is who you are.

These practices and changes are not quick fixes but altogether will gradually help to soothe the negativity associated with comparison. Try not to look at where you are now and focus on changing everything all at once. View yourself as a work in progress, we have our whole lives to reach goals and objectives, and after all – your goals and inspirations may change over the years. Continued self-improvement could be something that you wish to strive for rather than one specific end-goal.


About the author: Julia Whiting is a wellbeing, fashion and lifestyle blogger. Working in the financial services industry after completing a BSc in Economics at the University of Birmingham, Julia is currently developing her journalism skills alongside her day job. Suffering with anxiety and low self-esteem for most of her young adult years she speaks from experience about the issues related to these personality traits and how to cope. Wellbeing posts on her blog focus on positivity and self-improvement allowing you to take charge of your own destiny.

You can follow Julia on Twitter @mindpeaceblog or visit her website at peacefulpresence.wordpress.com.

Photo: Anorexia by Santiago Alvarez under Creative Commons license