You’re at the gym, in the middle of a great workout, feeling strong and accomplished.
Just as you’re about to start your cool-down, a woman gets on the treadmill next to you and cranks the speed up.
Her toned legs that go on for miles make yours look, well, stumpy, and you can’t help but notice multiple people staring at her. She’s wearing the trendiest workout clothes, and you suddenly feel incredibly self conscious in your fitness fashion choices.
How on earth is she not even breaking a sweat, while you’re there make-up free and drenched?!
Back at home, you start scrolling through Facebook. It’s filled with your friends’ happy photos and cheery status updates about the new house they just bought in a super desirable neighborhood.
You’ve been coveting a home just like theirs for years now, saving little by little, but your dream is still years away from becoming a reality.
You start to think, “What did they do right that I didn’t? I should have gotten that raise last year — that would really have helped me out. I guess I’m not putting in enough hours after all…I’ll never get there…”
Have you ever found yourself a situation like this?
This is the comparison trap in action, and it’s bringing you down.
The comparison trap is a self-sabotaging habit of judging ourselves against others we come into contact with. But when we use external cues to measure our worth, we always come up short — feeling like we’re never good enough, successful enough, or pretty enough.
For many of us, we can hardly be around other people for more than two minutes without making assumptions about how they’re better than us. We compare everything from our appearance to career success, regardless of how much or how little we know about the person.
And in this day and age, comparison is made so much more accessible with technology like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn — even if you logically know you’re seeing a filtered, Internet-friendly version of someone’s life, that doesn’t make the cycle of judging yourself any easier to keep in check.
Making assumptions about your shortcomings — many of which probably aren’t even close to true — are chipping away at you, little by little.
Comparison is exhausting and it’s a lose-lose game. So how do you quit comparing yourself to other people?
Here are steps to free yourself of the comparison trap once and for all.
1. Figure out the underlying reason why you’re comparing
When we’re facing something scary or unpleasant, we often turn outward to distract ourselves or shift the attention away from the real issue.
For example, we may begin to compare ourselves to a thinner friend as a result of the shame we feel for sneaking a mid-afternoon snack.
The next time you find yourself caught in the comparison trap, use it as an opportunity to look inward and honestly confront what you may be avoiding.
2. Ditch the scarcity mindset
Comparison stems from distorted thinking: “if she wins I lose”.
Essentially this mindset trap tricks us into thinking there’s not enough beauty/money/friends/happiness etc. to go around.
When operating from a place of scarcity it’s easy to become paralyzed. And when you don’t act, there’s no way to ever move forward and improve yourself.
Shift focus away from seeing situations as “either/or” and embrace that the “both/and”. You can be great at your job AND your co-worker can be great at her’s. Your friends can all have wonderful, caring partners AND so can you.
3. Focus on Number One
Commit to only comparing yourself to yourself for the next few days.
It’s not selfish. It’s survival.
Instead of telling yourself “My cousin Annie is so much thinner than I am,” instead flip the script and say, “I’m so proud of myself for losing twenty pounds, imagine how great I feel when I lose ten more!”
That takes other people out of the equation and makes room for productive, nurturing thoughts.
4. Send love and kindness
Ruminating on overly critical, negative feelings can be toxic and seep into your work and every day interaction so subtly you may not even be aware of the impact it’s having.
When you catch yourself in the comparison trap, pause and send kind thoughts toward the person you’re comparing yourself to — and yourself.
Cultivating gratitude will become a positive mental habit that leaves you happier, more confident, and frees up more mental space.
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Originally published at melodywilding.com on February 23, 2015.
Originally published at medium.com