Ohhhh boy. Have you been there? I know I have. Many times. And it doesn’t feel great. I’m talking about The Comparison Trap. Where you compare yourself to someone else and ALWAYS fall short.
Where did that come from and how did it EVER feel like a good idea?
The truth is, it just never ends well. For me, I notice that I get stuck in a cycle of insecurity and low self-esteem that compels me to compare myself to someone else (whether I really know them or not!). . . which just feeds that self-criticism monster even more.
When I was younger and did not have as much self-awareness as I do now, the Comparison Trap contributed to the development of my eating disorder, a self-destructive way of trying to soothe those feelings of not-good-enough that quickly turned into an out-of-control monster that ruined my relationships, my health, and my life.
In the age of social media, comparison runs rampant and unfortunately fuels so much of our society. “Who Wore It Better?”, “Look Who Lost 10 Pounds and Look Who Just Can’t Stop Eating!”, and endless edited and photo-shopped photos on Facebook of lives that yours simply can’t ever seem to measure up to. You could NEVER be that: happy; rich; successful; thin; perfect; etc…..etc….etc.
I know this because I have been there. And many, many of my clients struggle with the Comparison Trap and yearn to get out of it, get back in their own lives, and feel empowered, confident and strong. The good news: This Is Possible!
Here are Three Signs you may be caught up in the Comparison Trap – and how to free yourself from its grip.
#1 – You notice that how you feel about yourself is determined by factors that are not in your control. I like to look at this in terms of intrinsic vs external validation. Basically, this asks: where do you get your power from?
Do you place a lot of value in what other people think, say, feel, and how they react towards you? More value than you place internally, asking what do I think? Does that feel true to me? Do I agree or disagree? How could I respond in a way that would feel most authentic to me? When we give so much of our internal worth to the outside world, we are risking feeling out of control, inferior, and set up to unrealistic expectations.
Try this: go through your day and notice feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Ask yourself: where is the power right now? Is it coming from within me or am I giving it away? How can I take my power back in this moment? (I always turn to my breath.)
#2 — You get that icky, hollow, dark feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Here’s a scenario, maybe you can relate: you go to a networking meeting. You have been to this meeting before, and know a few of the folks who come regularly, but don’t feel like you know them super well. Not well enough to truly let yourself be you. As each person gets up to introduce themselves and performs their elevator speech, you notice yourself getting increasingly anxious and nervous. Yes, this is natural to happen in this circumstance. However, you notice that with each person who speaks, a voice in your head says: ‘you could never say it that eloquently’, ‘you aren’t as successful as they are’, ‘why didn’t you try that years ago? Now you couldn’t’ be as good at it as they are!’ and my personal favorite: ‘YOU’RE GOING TO FAIL!!’.
These thoughts contribute to that feeling in your stomach that feels empty and unsettling. Why? Because those thoughts are draining your unique, awesome, special essence that dwells within you.
Have you felt that way?
Try this: When I notice that empty feeling, I try to bring awareness to what is going on. Why am I feeling this way? What triggered me and where have I felt that before? I try to be gentle with myself, remind myself of why I am there and why I do what I do, and speak from the heart. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and sometimes acknowledging that makes it a bit easier. Each person has their own unique gift, story, and purpose in this world. You don’t have to be them. You have to be YOU.
#3 — You notice yourself Facebook-stalking people that you can compare yourself to. This is one that we all have done, but not many of us admit it. Have you ever noticed yourself looking at people’s Facebook pages – people you know moderately well – and seeing where you can measure yourself up against them? Come on, you know you have. I have! How does this feel? NOT GREAT.
For me, I notice that when I am struggling with some aspect of myself, or something that happened that day or in my life that I feel I don’t have control over, I compare my life to someone else’s. This is in an effort to try to soothe myself that “I am okay”….however, it’s not through the most therapeutic or effective means. It can do more harm than good. PLUS, social media is in essence deceptive and not based in reality, so comparing yourself to the perception of another person’s life based on social media is just pushing you further and further away from what you are really looking for: self-acceptance.
Try this: If you notice yourself going to social media or any other outlet to compare yourself or your life to someone else’s, ask yourself: What is going on? What do I need right now? Is this method the most appropriate place for me to find this? Instead of going toward something that will make you feel worse (comparison on social media), try to go toward an avenue that will make you feel better and more connected to yourself: doing an activity that inherently soothes you and reconnects you to yourself. For me, this is being in my garden.
What is it for you?
#4 – BONUS. This one is one of the most dangerous: when you notice yourself changing inherent, intrinsic, and authentic parts of yourself because “I’m not good enough” as something/one else that you compare yourself to. DON’T DO IT! You don’t need to change ANY part of yourself unless you truly want to. Again, that needs to come from within, not from the outside.
Try this: talk with a trusted friend , family member, or professional counselor if you are feeling this way about yourself. Help is out there and it can feel a WHOLE lot better 🙂
So, I challenge you to read, internalize, and try these four suggestions. None of us is perfect. You may still find yourself imbibing in the comparison cycle and falling into its deep, dark, enticing trap. That’s okay. Just try to gently notice this, ask how it feels, and try to come up with three things you can do to come back home to yourself.
You are awesome. You have a solid, special, very important reason for being here and the world is awaiting your presence. Go be a rockstar. There’s more than enough room for all of us!!