It’s human nature for us to compare ourselves to other people. After all, when we’re growing up we learn by copying our parents and older relatives and trying to emulate them. As we go through school, then college and start to build our careers we choose different role models and, again, we learn from and try to be like them. At some point, however we start doing less observing and emulating and more comparing ourselves to other people. And somehow, when we compare our skill, talent, looks, clothes, whatever, we always find ourselves wanting, not up to the same standard as whoever we’re comparing ourselves to. What was once a useful way of learning and developing quickly turns into yet another stick with which to beat ourselves. And as I’ve said before, focussing on our shortcomings (real or imaginary) and beating ourselves up can have a serious, negative impact on our self-confidence.
I often hear clients talking about people they compare themselves to. The super confident business owner who loves what she does, is phenomenally successful, has everything sorted and owns the room whenever she stands up to speak. The guy at work who is popular, brilliant at his job, fascinating to women and cruising to success. The perfect mum at the school gate who is always on time, impeccably dressed and whose children are beautiful and incredibly well behaved. You know, in real life they have worries and problems too, they’re human after all. Have you ever thought that you’re not comparing yourself to them as people, you’re comparing yourself to an ideal you’ve created. The super confident business owner may have marriage problems; the guy at work may be worried about paying his mortgage; the perfect mum may wish she was free of her responsibilities. You just don’t know what’s going on for them but one thing that’s certain is that they’re human and fallible, just like the rest of us.
So, take a minute and think about who you routinely compare yourself to. Why have you chosen them? What do you get from the comparison? Are they right for you, right now? It’s only a helpful, healthy comparison if it:
- provides a useful benchmark for you
- is aspirational or motivational
- gives you insights into how you can do something better.
If, on the other hand, the comparison leads to feelings of shame, inadequacy or helplessness then have a rethink. How would it be if you were kinder to yourself and chose to compare yourself to someone more realistic, someone who could actually help you? What would emulating someone just a bit better than you do for your self-confidence? Choose wisely and choose well. There is enough pressure on you already, why add to it by comparing yourself to an ideal that doesn’t exist in reality?