How To Stop Getting Caught In The Comparison Trap
Comparison is the thief of Joy. Yeah, you’ve heard it all before, but how do you get out of the comparison trap when your confidence has taken a hit? How do you stop feeling like you don’t measure up to the standard when this mode of thinking has been your norm for so long? Why isn’t it as easy as making a simple shift in your thinking?
For me, the key to understanding the need to compare is about understanding the feeling of not being “enough”. When we dig a little deeper below the surface, we can start to get awareness of what’s really going on for us and discover how our feelings, emotions and beliefs influence how we think and compare ourselves to others.
We form our beliefs early on, from our lived and learned experiences of our world. Beginning with our family dynamics, the learning’s we had in childhood to the experiences and relationships we have in our adult years. All of these experiences help shape who we are, how we view things, how we do life and what we believe to be true.
If you start to look closely, you will eventually find what I and many other people have felt at one point in their lives, that comparing yourself ourselves to other people is a symptom of having taken on the “I am not enough” or “I need to be good enough” belief.
The thing is, it’s not usually enough just to practice changing our thoughts around this, or telling ourselves, “I am enough!” This is also hard to do when your confidence levels may have dipped. Instead, to get long term change, develop Beyoncé like confidence and self-esteem we have to identify where this began for us and what remains unfinished so we can start to deal with.
Make a list of your beliefs on what you should be more of, and write out all the things you secretly think but don’t say. Maybe it sounds like
I should be making more money
Once you know what those beliefs are you can start to question where they came from.
If I asked you to identify where you first learnt that what you did, or who you were wasn’t enough, you might say that’s impossible. Stay with me for a moment though, and see what happens when you focus on thinking about a key time or experience you recall feeling this way? Usually, some of our first experiences of comparing ourselves have happened early on. As I mentioned our experiences form part of who we are and how we are in the world. Our past gives us major clues as to what is actually happening in our lives right now.
When did you first learn that you weren’t enough?
What was your first experience of not feeling like you were enough?
Whose voice is it that tells you, you need to do or be more?
Understanding when and how we may have taken on some of these beliefs often frees us up to see that they also might not belong to us. The important thing here is to pay some attention and listen to that belief, rather than try and ignore it or change the thought pattern. This is because the harder we try and resist what that nagging critical voice of comparison says, the louder that voice seems to get. Rather if we stay curious and look at the way we have compared ourselves to others as having been at one point potentially useful to you, we can start to bring some empathy to that voice of comparison.
I should have a better job by now
I should have more friends
I should have a new car
I should have a better body
Whatever it is let the voice of comparison have its say
Perhaps the feeling of not being enough propelled you to always be better, to perfect your projects or your work, or maybe it drove you to strive for more in your career. Often it is this drive that fuels our success and propels us forward into new and exciting opportunities.
It’s now about recognising however that this belief is no longer useful and that instead of having the flexibility to do an honest assessment of areas we can improve in without beating ourselves up in the process, we feel stuck in the process of comparing ourselves and feeling less than others we imagine as being better than us.
Now that we understand the beliefs, it’s time to let the voice of wisdom kick in. I want you to imagine that you're operating at your highest self-know. This is the place where you are Zen you are calm and you know you operating as you at the highest level. Picture it… Sometimes I like to think of this as my inner warrior, who is without questioning wise, amazingly talented and fierce!
Now question that list and reframe and celebrate what you HAVE achieved or what you will be doing, make it realistic. It might sound like:
I recently took on an exciting new opportunity that is giving me heaps of exposure in the career I want
I am progressively improving my skills in my job
I have a wonderful close knit circle of true friends I can rely on
I am grateful I have a decent car that gets me from A-B, a new car will be on its way soon
I am working on my relationship with food and my body; I’ve made some great steps to alter my diet so that it’s healthy and to be more active.
Lastly, continue to remind yourself that life is about flow. It’s a natural flow of energy where we enjoy the process. It’s easy to perceive another person as successful, some people might even seem to pop up out of nowhere as an overnight success. Remember, many of the people you look up to were not successful right away. What appears as success in public often takes many years of hard work, many failed attempts and constant learning and reinvention before a level of success has been achieved. One of the best pieces of wisdom I can leave you with is to enjoy the process, trust that you are unfolding just as you need to and that by stopping and appreciating your own unique journey, you can drop the comparisons and feel confident that you are more than enough.
Natajsa Wagner is a Masters qualified Psychotherapist based in Brisbane, Australia. Natajsa blends relational Gestlat methods, contemporary Psychotherapy and neuroscience practices in her work. Natajsa guides and mentors professionals in understanding themselves and their behaviour patterns so they can make more aligned choices in their life. Natajsa is thought leader and advocate for authentic human conversations and connection. She works experientially with individuals and groups to teach, that in a moment, we can create and experience more deeply satisfying connections with each other.
Her work offers an antidote to the modern day disease of disconnection.She invites others to create a ripple of connection in the world, so that we might all feel more intimacy, belonging and aliveness. Natajsa has been featured as an expert both locally and internationally and has contributed to a number of print and online media outlets including: Womens Health and Fitness Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine & ABC Online.