We are hardwired to compare ourselves to others. It is nearly impossible to avoid, especially during the holidays.
Why does this happen? Because we are social creatures who want to connect and belong. The catch: by constantly trying to connect with others and harness a sense of belonging, we inevitably size ourselves up in relation to those around us. Whether it be our social media feeds, those we see on our favorite tv shows, coworkers, or those in our daily lives, we are bombarded with reference points that give us a sense of how good, pretty, accomplished, etc. we are (or are not).
Don’t believe me, let’s try an experiment. Which of the following middle circles is larger?
Did you say the right one? You are not alone, but the actual answer is they are exactly the same.
The right circle seems bigger only because the circles around it are smaller reference points as compared to the surrounding circles on the left. As the saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy.
Here are four tips to combat this hard-wired comparison with others to help yourself be happier, more productive, and present in your day to day:
You do you! – Use your energy to focus on what you have, not what you do not. It’s easy to forget how great our home, partner, car, job, relationships, or anything in between Practice some gratitude to appreciate who you are and who you are becoming.
Life is a Journey – Life is a journey and the best reference point is yourself. Instead of viewing yourself as “behind” or “ahead” of others – recognize that everyone has a unique path, with no one being better than the other.
It is not a zero-sum game – Just because you like how someone else lives their life doesn’t mean you cannot also do the same. This isn’t a game of musical chairs where there are a finite amount of chairs to sit in. You do you, and there’s nothing wrong with taking some inspiration from others around you.
Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness has been shown to provide multiple benefits. One in particular is to bring us to the present moment and help us reset our reference points to a more helpful place.
All in all, comparison is a gnarly little brain trap that often makes us feel bad about ourselves. By normalizing this feature, along with some strategies, you can fight social comparison and build resilience in your personal and professional life.