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What do all of the above have in common? The potential for us to compare ourselves to others and feel badly about out life. Call it “compare and despair”. When you compare your reality to others you will feel despair. Why despair? When we look at others lives we notice all the things that are going right for them. However, when we look at our lives, we notice all the things that are not going as we wish.
Comparing ourselves to others is normal human behavior and we’ve been doing this ever since we evolved from cavewomen. How did our neighbors get their campfire to burn for so much longer than ours? How did they keep the rain from flooding into their kitchen floor? Looking at how others do things can positively propel us forward to grow and learn. Unfortunately looking at how others do things can also leave us looking at what’s not working in our lives and where we are lacking. Why? Because either consciously or unconsciously, we are not happy with the areas of our lives where we feel that despair.
Think about it. If one of your friends posted a picture of herself with bright green hair, you will probably think something like: “that’s an interesting choice” or “I wonder why she did that.”. Both of those thoughts are nonjudgmental and create very little, if any, mental drama. Now, if you have always wanted to color your hair green and your spouse has said “NFW”, your thoughts about your friend’s hair would be very different.
The truth is that the less we compare ourselves with others the calmer and more content we will feel. How can we do this?
- Conscious Consumption: For the next 24-hours pay attention to when you compare yourself to someone, or criticize or judge someone or something. What were you doing right before that? Were you on Facebook? Reading a magazine? At a girls night out? Watching a certain TV show? In your child’s classroom? You are in control of where you get your news, who you spend your time with, what you do on your phone. Do the people on your newsfeed make you feel better, encourage you to be the next best version of yourself, or is there a lot of complaining and finger pointing. Choose to consume consciously.
- Look for the good: You’ve heard me say that our brains are programmed to look for the negative in a situation. It’s important you are aware of what your brain is doing so that you can cut back on comparing. What is going well in your life? Sure, Sarah’s kitchen looks super clean in that picture she posted on FB but you have good things going on too. Making gratitude a part of your day is an easy way to remind yourself of what is going well. Look at your day and decide if you will stop to think of what you’re grateful for in the morning, before dinner, or in the evening. Make it a practice for a week. Why the hell not? Study after study shows that taking time each day to think of even one thing you’re grateful for raises your overall level of happiness. When we feel happier about what’s going on in our lives, we are less reactive, less judgmental and guess what, less likely to compare and despair. I dare you to message me a reason as to why you won’t try this simple way to rewire our brains?
- You are not alone: No matter what you and your family are going through, you are not the first to go through it. Whatever you are feeling, someone has felt that way before. No matter how dysfunctional your marriage is, someone else’s is also. There is someone else stressed out about her daughter’s new peer group also. You are not alone. Remember Sarah’s clean kitchen? I guarantee that if you were to sit down with Sarah, she’d tell you of something she’s struggling with. There is no perfect life. Reach out to others who inspire you, who you feel good being around, who are doing things in their lives that you admire. Consciously choose your tribe and you will not feel alone.
This season, save yourself the despair and mental drama by cutting back on comparing. The more aware you are of your thoughts, the less comparing and despairing you will have in your life. As humans, our superpower is that we have the ability to think about what we are thinking about. Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Beings who think about our thinking. Think about when you are thinking thoughts of comparison. Think about how those thoughts make you feel. Is that how you want to feel? If you are ready to feel differently, schedule a coaching session. Emotional freedom is the grandest gift of adulthood.
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