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Compare & Despair

Since this is the season that is all about spreading joy, I decided to put my own spin on it and explore what steals joy. 

One tried-and-true joy-stealer that I’ve experienced and that I know my clients also experience, is the habit of comparing ourselves to others. About anything. Big, small, important, mundane. Anything from holiday decorations to who is getting promoted. Our culture loves to judge based on looks, money, and achievements. 


Comparison is part of our culture. It seems unavoidable. But we can at least try to stop doing it to ourselves. 


Why Does It Matter?

When we compare ourselves to another person, inevitably, we are judging them and ourselves, and unconsciously deciding which one is “better.” This is what steals our joy. Judging ourselves. Judging others. Either way, the judging is damaging. 


On one hand, when we judge others and think we’re better than them, it can make us less compassionate, more critical and more easily frustrated. It affects how we treat others, and in turn, how they react. While thinking we are superior might make us feel, well, superior, for a moment, it does not last because there is always another thing by which we will be judged: The next project. The next meeting. The next promotion. The next holiday to decorate for. Judging sets us up in a constant battle to be on top. It’s exhausting. 


When we judge ourselves as inferior, the same thing happens, but toward ourselves. We become less compassionate, more critical and more frustrated with ourselves. We kick off a whole lot of anxiety and insecurity, which also doesn’t feel good. 


Both options take us out of the present moment and make us less effective. When we think about how we look compared to so-and-so, we are not thinking creatively, solving problems or innovating. We are thinking about ourselves. 


Now, I realize some of you may say, “But when I compare myself with others, it motivates me to do better.” Maybe. Sure, it can show us what is possible. Maybe it can light a fire under us to do more, try harder, be “better”? But it also means we are defining ourselves against another person rather than BEING ourselves. We miss out on being us.


Here’s what I want to offer. It’s inevitable that we are going to compare and that we will be compared. But, we have choices about how we interpret the comparisons. One doesn’t have to be “better” than the other.


If we look to nature, everything has a purpose. We don’t wonder why hydrangeas can’t be more like tulips, right? Or why dogs can’t be more like cats. We accept them as they are.  

What if we started to do the same thing with ourselves? If you stopped comparing yourself to others, what could you let go of? How can you be “you-nique”?


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