Hannah Rose LCPC

Working Through Shame

Why You Should Stop Comparing Yourself to Everybody Else

If "comparison is the thief of joy," who's the one orchestrating the theft?

Posted Sep 04, 2019

How many times a day do we compare our insides to someone else’s outsides?

Whether I was with my friends, in a work environment, with my family, or in public surrounded by strangers, I used to almost always be comparing myself to the people around me.

If I saw someone who looked "successful," I would automatically assume that they “have it all together” and that they don’t ever struggle with the same basic human tendencies that I can fall prey to. I didn't know at the time that "success" is relative; one can have money and no self-love, tons of self-love and no career, and every other pairing that there is. 

I used to compare my relationship to everyone else’s, wondering if they were happier than we were. I used to wonder if they experienced fear, doubt, or pain in their relationships. I would see reels of social media highlights and wonder how those couples looked so good. I seldom thought about what might be going on behind closed doors.

I compared my level of education, area of study, and career accomplishments. I looked at my blog and told myself I haven’t written a book yet, so I really haven’t done anything. I used to get in my car in the morning and wonder how people work for themselves or start their own business and get to make their own schedules (update since I first wrote this article: I'm about to embark on the journey of self-employment with my private practice)!

All of these comparisons would ultimately eclipse the gratitude and self-efficacy I had for who I was. But what didn't I see?

I didn't see the massive amount of work and fear that goes into success, whatever that means to a person. I didn't see the fear, self-doubt, and small failures along the way. I didn't see the tears and the sweat and the number of hours that someone put into their journey. I didn't see the sacrifices they may have had to make to get to where they are today.

To me, success has to begin internally.

I once heard a yoga teacher say at the end of a rigorous class while laying breathless and corpse-like on my mat, "Gratitude is not a byproduct of happiness. Happiness is a byproduct of gratitude." I needed to spend less of my life convincing myself that once I completed this or got that, I would feel more whole. I needed to let go of the notion that other people were better or worse than me. In the words of Ram Dass, "We're all just walking each other home." 

So what does comparing do for us? Comparing ourselves, belittling our worth, or minimizing our strengths can validate our core irrational beliefs that ultimately we are not good enough, we are unworthy, or we are not reaching our peak potential.

What would it look like for us to take each other off of pedestals? To stop assuming that everyone else is better or worse than us and recognizing that we are simply all on the same journey? To acknowledge that we are both all the same and all unique, at the same exact time?

To do this, try to bring a level of mindfulness to your internal narrative:

  • What areas of life are you comparing yourself to others the most?
  • What is lacking in your own life that you would like to expand?
  • What would it be like for you to stop putting other people on pedestals and instead let them come crashing down to the beautiful mess that is the human experience?

For me, I think there is a level of security and safety in believing that there are people who "have it all together." It scares me to think that most of us have no idea what we're doing, and simply doing the best we can with what we have. It's terrifying to imagine that no one has all of the answers and that it is ultimately up to me to make my own path.

Even though it doesn't feed my ego to put myself down, there is a part of me that can still cling to the self-destructive tendency of believing I'm "not as good" as someone else. I will continue to pour fuel on this unworthy fire if I continue comparing myself to others. 

What does comparing do for you? Is it feeding a maladjusted belief that you aren't worthy? Instead of looking up and out, try looking in. You are enough.

The reality is that there is nothing outside of you that can fill the internal void inside of you. Believe me, I've tried. Relationships, money, careers, approval from others, and so on. None of it works. True self-love begins and ends internally. The gifts we receive in our lives, or the gifts that we work tirelessly for, are wonderful byproducts of the work we do internally. Stop seeking externally. Stop comparing yourself to others.

If I've learned anything as a therapist, it's this: Everybody has their secrets. Everybody has their pain. Everybody compares themselves to others. Some more than others, but we all do it. It is the human condition, and it doesn't have to keep being this way.

Be mindful of your narrative. Acknowledge your strengths. Forgive yourself for being human, and start walking each other home.