Lesson 4.3 - Tips for dealing with comparison
Hey you! This is the third and final lesson in module 4. In the previous lesson we talked about the topic of comparison and how it affects you and your life. This lesson is about #alltheaction. All the tips. All the strategies. We’re going to go over a lot of practical action steps to help you manage your comparisonitis.
I hear you asking: is there a worksheet that accompanies this lesson, Wendy? Well, of course there is! So, make sure to print it or download it and keep it ready.
Let’s get to it.
Acknowledge that you’re comparing
The first step in dealing with comparison is to acknowledge when you’re in it. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge, right? I was totally channeling my inner Dr. Phil there.
Here’s a little script that you can use, but feel free to change it up in a way that feels right for you.
“My name is [...] and I keep comparing myself to [insert person or situation you’re comparing yourself to]. I really like how they [...], but I want to do my own thing and take my own path. We are different people and I will not compare myself again.”
Copy this script and save it somewhere easily accessible, so that you can refer back to it again and again.
Get real about achievements
In the previous lesson we talked about prioritizing alignment over achievement as a measure of success. At the heart of this framework is how important it is to reframe achievement and success.
Let’s explore this reframing of what achievement means a little further.
Let me tell you about a cool study that professor Ellen Langer from Harvard University did. We’ve talked about her before in the previous module. Professor Langer asked students to assess the intelligence of a number of highly accomplished scientists.
The first group of students was given no information on how these scientists attained their success. Participants in this group rated the intelligence of the scientists as extremely high and did not perceive the scientists’ achievements as attainable.
Participants in the second group were told about the same scientists and the same achievements, but in addition they were told about the trials, errors, and setbacks the scientists experienced on the road to success. Students in this group evaluated these scientists as impressive - just like the students in the first group did. But unlike participants in the first group, students in the second group evaluated the scientists’ achievements as attainable.
The students in the first group were only exposed to the scientists’ achievements. They saw only one part of reality - the outcome. The students in the second group were also aware of what the scientists did along the way. The saw reality as a whole - the process and the outcome.
Isn’t that cool?!
It’s exactly what happens when we’re stuck in comparison mode. That’s when we’re in the first group, so to speak, only focused on the outcome. The key is to transition over to the second group, where you appreciate the process just as much as the outcome.
Professor Langer writes:
“By investigating how someone got somewhere, we are more likely to see the achievement as hard-won and our own chances as more plausible… People can imagine themselves taking steps, while great heights seem entirely forbidding.”
Here’s an exercise that is sort of a pre-emptive strike, that will help you before comparison has set in. It’s on the worksheet.
Write down a goal that you care about. One that’s aligned with who your are and with your values, but something that you’re concerned you may not be able to achieve.
In narrative form, describe how you will reach this goal. Include in your story a description of the series of steps that you will take on the road to success, the obstacles and challenges that you will face, and how you will overcome them. Discuss where the pitfalls lie, where you may stumble and fall, and then how you’ll get up again. Finally, write about how you’ll eventually get to your destination. Make your story as vivid as possible, narrating it like an adventure story.
Repeat this exercise for as many goals as you wish.
The key here is that you’re focusing on the PROCESS, making you less likely to fall victim to comparisonitis later on when you’re actually and actively working on that goal.
We can also use the core lesson of this study in another way. Less pre-emptive and more in the moment.
First of all, grab the worksheet and make a list of your achievements, big and small. Preferably, focus on… let’s call them aligned achievements, achievements that are in alignment with your values and with who you are now.
Now, every time you find yourself comparing… let’s say you’re looking at someone’s picture perfect Instagram feed with all the travel photos of tropical destinations and you find yourself thinking “Ugh, I never go anywhere. My life is nowhere near as glamorous and adventurous as hers!”, you can whip out your list of achievements and say “Hey wait a minute, I’ve traveled to some cool places!” or you can say “You know, good for her, but travel isn’t something I value that much. I’m such a homebody and I prefer having mini-adventures in my hometown.”
Also, in that moment of comparison, focus on the PROCESS and not just the OUTCOME of the person or situation you’re comparing yourself to. Let’s use the travel photographer in Instagram as an example again. Her outcome - those photos of white sandy beaches - is beautiful.
But when you focus on the process, things start to look differently. She’s traveling so much, she hardly gets to spend time with her loved ones. That picture perfect image? It probably took a two-hour hike up a mountain and a good amount of blood, sweat, and tears to take that photo. She’s probably covered in mosquito bites. She has to wake up every morning at 5am, because that’s when the light is ‘just right’. She’s spent a total of 6 hours waiting for the perfect shot, taking the photo, and then editing it to perfection - what a life is that?
Now, this isn’t about tearing someone else down. Not at all, although I might have made it come across that way, that wasn’t my intention. But it’s more about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and taking an honest look at their lives and circumstances.
That picture perfect Instagram travel account is suddenly a lot less appealing, isn’t it? It’s still beautiful and aspirational to look at, but no longer comparison-inducing.
To practice, I want you to use the worksheet and think of a recent situation where you found yourself in the comparison trap. Think about that specific situation and focus on the process, not just the outcome. Can you reframe that situation in a way that lessens the feelings of comparison?
With a little practice, you can use this exercise every time you find yourself stuck in comparison.
What season are you in?
Another way to tackle comparison in the moment, is to ask yourself “What season am I in?”
Is it a season of hustle, struggle, or rest? Or a blend of each?
This is where things usually go wrong. We compare our season of rest to someone else's season of hustle. Or the other way around.
When you use this tool and realize that someone else is in a completely different season in their work or life, the comparison and the negative emotion attached to it loses its power. Because you can honestly say that someone is at a different place in their lives.
Identify your triggers and avoid them
Another tip is to identify your comparison triggers and avoid them!
If you find yourself falling into the comparison trap and feeling bad about yourself when you look at a certain someone’s so-called perfect life on Instagram or Facebook, STOP looking at that person’s account. Stop following the account, block it if you need to, or delete the app from your phone altogether.
Why would you set yourself up for failure? You can make a choice here. Unsubscribe from newsletters, stop reading those successful blogs, stop hanging out with that one friend that constantly judges you, stop baking cookies just because the PTA moms do it.
Those social media accounts and websites can serve as great inspiration for you one day, but right now, it’s just taking your voice away.
And if you HAVE to be on social media, maybe for work, set a block of time during the day when you can spend time on social media or to schedule your posts, and otherwise stay away.
Okay, grab the worksheet and make a list of your comparison triggers. Next to each item on your list, write down how you plan to deal with them or what changes you’re going to make.
Turn the focus on yourself
What can help you when you’re stuck in comparison mode, is to turn the focus away from that other person and onto yourself.
It really is about you, after all.
Often when we doubt our abilities, it is because we are focused on how other people will perceive them. It’s a difficult feeling to overcome, but it helps to remember that the best things often come from trying to impress and please yourself instead of others.
Many writers produced their best books when they were simply writing something that they would want to read. Many beautiful paintings were created simply because something of a scene struck the painter as beautiful or unique.
The opinions of others are just that: opinions. YOUR opinion should matter the most.
So, ask yourself:
“Why am I creating this thing or pursuing this project?”
“What is it that I hope to learn from this project or endeavor?”
“How do I want to grow in this situation or project and otherwise this year?”
Another way to shift the focus on yourself is to think about a previous version of yourself and to actively consider how far you’ve come.
So, instead of comparing You to Someone Else, you’re comparing You to Old You.
There is nothing better to compare yourself with than the person you were ten minutes ago, yesterday, last week, or last year. This is the truest indicator of progress you will ever have, and the only one that really matters.
This type of comparison is the most accurate type, as we’re able to see ourselves the way we were in the past without any illusions. In looking back at our previous experiences we can honor all of our successes, even if we don’t think they measure up to the successes of others.
When we compare with ourselves we can see where we went wrong, or why something didn’t work out. This is much more conducive to future growth than the endless comparison of yourself and others.
So, in the moment, ask yourself:
“What was my process in getting where I am now?”
“In what way have I grown over the years when it comes to …?”
“What challenges have I overcome to get to where I am today with regard to …?”
Remember your strengths
This is a great tip, not just for dealing with comparison, but overall: make a list of your strengths and positive attributes.
Don’t forget there will always be people who struggle with things that are second nature to you, so make sure you include everything: things you do well, things you find easy, and things you think everyone can do.
Also, keep updating your achievement list that you’ve created in an earlier exercise as a sort of victory log. Be sure to record all your achievements and all of the tasks you successfully complete, no matter how big or small they may seem.
Be sure to store this list in your phone or in a notebook that you carry around. You might even want to create a wall poster as an inspirational reminder.
A final strategy that you can use both pre-emptively (as a daily self-care habit) and in the moment when you’re in the comparison trap, is to use affirmations.
I recommend using them every day by saying them out loud or writing them down in a journal.
I also recommend that you keep a few of your favorite affirmations on hand for when you need them. Store them in your phone or record a voice message of you saying them out loud.
These are my favorite comparison-crushing affirmations:
“I can admire the way she goes after her goals without going after mine the same way.”
“Someone else’s success never takes away from my own.”
“I am not in competition with [insert name here].”
“I have my own stories to share, work to do, and contribution to bring to the world - even if others are also doing something similar.”
“I will not compare myself to strangers on the internet.”
“I have amazing gifts to give to this world. I am not exactly like anyone else. I am enough.”
“We are different people and I will not compare myself again.”
That’s it for this lesson and for module 4 Comparison. Make sure to complete the worksheet before moving on to the next module. See you there!