Learning how to stop comparing yourself to others is arguably one of the most liberating attainments. In contrast, comparing yourself to others is mentally and emotionally exhausting. Comparison is the main reason behind many of your major insecurities and prevents the kind of self-worth and self-esteem that is at the back of real success.
That dreaded feeling of not being good enough or being unable to be truly happy for the success of others has its roots in comparing yourself and stands in the way of your success from the outset. Even if you manage to achieve outward success despite comparing yourself to others, as many people do, it can never be accompanied by the freedom and peace of mind that comes with an unshakeable sense of self, free of any need for comparison. Theodore Roosevelt said it best when he said, "comparison is the thief of joy", and indeed it is.
Comparing yourself is just a habit that is likely to have started as far back as your school days. Factors such as school grades, appearance and sporting achievements often determine a child's popularity and hence his/her self-worth. As adults, such outward appearances are simply replaced by 'grown-up' equivalents like money, material possessions and so on. Somewhat ironically, the most popular kids on the block are likely to be the ones who have the most significant need to compare themselves as adults because they came to depend on the good opinion of others and on the ego-boost of being 'first' or 'the best' from a very young age.
Comparing yourself to others traps you on a roller-coaster ride on which your self-worth is flung around by the opinion, words and actions of others. Even when you do feel better than others by comparison, the strength you gain is a temporary ego-boost disguising itself as authentic inner power. Once the ego-boost begins to fade (as it will), your insecurities re-surface thereby re-triggering your need for outside reassurance that sends you on a futile search for inner strength in the one place you will never find it—outside of yourself—and so the roller-coaster ride begins again. As an aside, your ego in this sense is the counterfeit or false ego of your personal self not the True Ego of your True Self. Learning how to stop comparing yourself to others is fundamental, therefore, to an unshakeable sense of self, independent of the good opinion of others.
If you compare yourself to others you are likely to find that you also look to others for their approval. Needing the approval of others makes you second guess yourself and your decisions. It drains you of any sense of self and leaves you never quite sure of who you are and what you truly want. The good opinion of others may feel 'good' in the short-run but can only leave you feeling 'bad' in the long run. Someone else's stamp of approval can be likened to an ink stamp on your skin that is quickly washed off with the first signs of rain. Whoever you need to 'stamp' you, owns you. If you find yourself needing the approval of others, learning how to stop comparing yourself will grant you a sense of freedom that you have perhaps never experienced before.
Those unwanted feelings of not being good enough, of constantly needing the approval of others, of inadequacy, of resentment towards others' success and of envy, to name but a few, are all the result of one thing: comparing yourself to others. You can never quite feel good enough if your 'good' is defined by the relative achievements of others. You can never quite approve of yourself if that approval depends on the opinion, words or actions of others.
You can never quite feel adequate when you place yourself on a step ladder of adequacy, with the more adequate above you and the less adequate beneath you. If you find yourself on a ladder of success then you envy those above you and wish to overtake them, while pitying those beneath you while secretly wanting them to stay there lest they overtake you. You can never be genuinely happy for the success of others when by comparison that success is greater than your own thereby making them greater or more successful than you. You can never quite admire others' strengths and learn from them when those strengths are the yardstick for your weaknesses. In this context, when you learn how to stop comparing yourself to others, and stop doing so, you will find that some of your deepest insecurities evaporate as if by magic.
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If you never compared yourself to others you would never have reason to envy anyone. Envy has its root cause in comparison. Only in comparing yourself can you be envious of another person. And according to the Ancient Greeks, envy is the basest of emotions and the cause of much strife both within ourselves and in the world in general.
To be truly happy for the success of a friend or a stranger, be it in their relationships, in their career, in their wealth, in their appearance or in any other area, is one of the most liberating and satisfying feelings you can come to experience. And when you truly know this feeling of being genuinely happy for others without an inkling of even the seemingly innocent 'why not me?' you will feel incomparably free because you will have risen above the world of relative things. Being free of envy is arguably one of the greatest freedoms you can come to enjoy.
Somewhat paradoxically, people who compare themselves in an attempt to judge their own success set themselves up for nothing more than mediocrity. Using others as your yardstick places a limit on your success. Few people dare to compare themselves to the truly successful and those who do, usually look to successful people as a source of inspiration and that is vastly different to comparing yourself as a gauge of your worth. Either way, most people are quite satisfied with comparing themselves to their immediate circle of friends, colleagues, neighbours and acquaintances with little consideration as to the true nature of their success or inner world. Comparing yourself to others limits your success to the perceived success of the person you are comparing yourself to. In contrast, by learning how to stop comparing yourself to others, the sheer potential for success that you will see is also likely to have no comparison to what it was before.
Each time you compare yourself or seek the approval of others, you give away your authentic power to consciously create your life. And the more you give it away, the more insecure you feel. When you are more concerned about what others think than what you think, then you effectively stop thinking for yourself. You invalidate your thought power because you let others think for you.
Whether you realise it or not, everything you experience in the Physical Plane has its origin in your invisible inner world through the conscious creation process. It is your inner world that you should be focusing on, not outward appearances that are but shadows of your consciousness.
If you want to have any real directive power over your life then start making up your own mind about what you desire to experience and set out to attain it. And when you learn how to stop comparing yourself to others, you will suddenly find that you have more ideas, more energy and more drive to succeed your way.
Admittedly, we live in a society in which comparing ourselves to others is quite acceptable and if anything it is encouraged from a very young age. If you feel that you cannot but compare yourself despite your efforts otherwise, ask yourself if you know enough about that person to be able to make a fair and objective comparison. You never know what someone else is going through no matter how happy or 'sorted' they appear on the outside. When you realise this, you won't pay as much attention to isolated factors of anyone's apparent success. Also, consider a person's inner values—if they are values you admire then applaud them and if they aren't, why would you ever want to compare yourself to that person?
If you often feel competitive, a need to win, a need to be better than others, a need for outside approval, a need for praise or a gut-feeling of envy for the success of others even if you'd want to be genuinely happy for them, then behind each of these feelings or needs you are likely to find the tendency to compare yourself to others as a measure of your self-worth.
Since comparison is such a self-sabotaging exercise, the obvious question then is how to stop doing so. The first step is to acknowledge that you do compare yourself. It may seem obvious but you cannot change a problem if you do not first acknowledge its existence. This is not about blaming yourself or feeling bad that you compare yourself (most people do). It is about recognising that you do, so that you can change it.
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Behind your need to compare yourself is a distorted sense of self-worth based on a definition of success that you never chose in the first instance—one that was most likely given to you by society. A powerful way to stop comparing yourself once and for all is to know your self-worth and build solid self-esteem that cannot be disturbed by outside factors and opinions. Doing so will give you the freedom to be the only person you were ever meant to be—yourself and ultimately your True Self.
By paying more attention to your thoughts, needs and feelings you can catch yourself in the moment of comparing yourself. As is the case with all those mental and physical actions that you do habitually, catching yourself in the throws of comparison is key to stopping it. And when you do, take a deep breath and remind yourself that there is no need to compare yourself to anyone. Endeavour to see the other person as a human being whose joy you are joyful for, rather than a competitor whose joy you wish you had. You can have anything you desire through your imagination, if only you put your mind to it, rather than waste it on comparing yourself. It is a wonderful feeling to be free of the comparison-trap and free to create your life the way you desire it to be.
When you learn how to stop comparing yourself to others once and for all, you will also find that you become more accepting of others, you will not entertain gossip, you will become fairer in your dealings with others, you will find more time to commit to your goals and you will also find yourself adopting the maxim "live and let live" realising that everyone has their own path to walk. In the words of the French politician, Marquis de Condorcet, "Enjoy your own life without comparing it with that of another."
It is worth noting that the Physical Plane, being relative in nature, lends itself to comparison because of the illusion of duality of 'me and outside people and things' and the sense of scarcity it induces. In contrast, your aim is to discover the mighty I within and remember who you truly are, knowing that everything and everyone is but a projection of your consciousness.
If you knew you could have anything you desire through your wonderful imagination, why would you ever envy anyone for having their desires? If you knew that everyone is but a projection of your consciousness, what sense would it make to compare yourself to anyone? If you knew that everyone is your mirror, how could you ever be resentful of anyone's happiness without resenting your own? If you knew that everyone is you pushed out, how could you not be happy for everyone's joy, how could you not want the best experience of life for everyone, how could you not love everyone?
To love anyone start with truly learning to love yourself and you'll find that self-comparison is replaced by a Love for All and the ability to say 'what I want for myself, I want for everybody else' and mean it. A deep sense of love for everyone and everything is the greatest reward of learning how to stop comparing yourself to others.
By Tania Kotsos — Updated NOV 2020
FURTHER READING: How to Know Your Self-Worth
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