We all know that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others. Yet, that’s often easier said than done.
When we look at others, we often focus on their success, the beautiful pictures, the carefully presented home, the job title, the car, the happy smiling people, the shiny stuff. It’s easy to forget that we are not seeing the whole picture.
We may not be aware of the path they walked, the times they fell, the challenges they had to overcome, or the hurdles they still jump. We may not see the hidden relationship conflicts. We may not see the health worry behind the scenes. We don’t see what is hidden, particularly if we are using images on social media as a guide.
And although comparing ourselves to others is not always a bad thing – it can, for example, help with goal setting – the reality is that we only have control of our own life. Comparing ourselves to others tends to position us in a place where we experience insecurity and resentment.
Comparing how we feel on the inside to how others might look on the outside is a fast track to low mood, anxiety and unhappiness.
Here are three ways to stay focused on the things that matter:
- Authenticity matters. The only person who can define you is yourself. Other people will have opinions and may prefer you to act in certain ways, but being authentic means taking responsibility for the decisions we make. Judging yourself by someone else’s definition of what’s right, or relying on the approval of others leads to anxiety.
- Thinking about what you want is not being selfish, but an important part of knowing yourself, developing confidence and healthy self-esteem.
- Work from your strengths. Accept that people have different strengths and weaknesses. That friend who you admire because they work out 3 times a week and stays committed to their goals? Perhaps perseverance is a strength. They might admire you for your ability to connect to others, for your baking skills,or for your ability to solve problems. We all have a constellation of relative strengths and weaknesses.
- Whilst we can learn from the actions of others, wellbeing comes from working on developing our own strengths, not beating ourselves up for our weaknesses.
- Make decisions that are in line with your values. Notice that, for all of us, behaviour tends to be driven by values. For example, perhaps your friend places health higher on her values list than you do. It may be that you value relationships more than health. That means when faced with a choice, your friend is more likely to choose going to the gym (health), and you will be more likely to skip going to the gym so that you can catch up with a friend (relationships). We might share similar values, but the order in which we prioritise them can vary widely.
- Understanding our values is one of the ways we can begin understanding what drives our choices and behaviour. When we act in line with our highest values, we tend to increase our mental wellbeing and reduce internal conflict.