We all do it. We compare our lives, our grades, our bodies, our families, our personalities, our jobs, our money, our accessories, and the list goes on. Even though we hate how it makes us feel, we do it anyway. For many of us, the trap of comparison has become almost like second nature. Often we feel inferior to people based on our own self- judgment and/or our perception that someone else is better than we are. The trap of comparison is that we’re stuck in a negative loop if we feel less than someone else or even better than another person.
All of this is an ego game that ultimately sets us up to lose. Comparison to others leads to jealousy, anxiety, judgment, criticism, separation, loneliness, etc. It’s normal for us to compare ourselves to others, especially given the competitive culture in which we live and the way we engage with the world today through social media. However, this comparison game can have severe consequences on our ability to love ourselves, self-esteem, and self confidence.
Chelsey Carrington, Ph.D., HSPP is a local clinical psychologist whom I had the pleasure of speaking to. During our conversation, I learned the strong detrimental impact the comparison trap can have on our lives, to both our physical and mental health. If you are wanting to improve your self esteem, self love, and self confidence, and get out of this comparison loop, here are some of the best tips and tricks for you to implement into your routine suggested by Dr. Carrington.
The purpose of positive affirmations is to help you overcome negative thoughts that make you doubt yourself. Daily positive affirmations are meant to minimize negativity and help you see yourself in a positive light. Practicing these affirmations doesn’t have to mean repeating one phrase repeatedly every day. It is about affirming yourself and replacing negative thoughts with positive self talk. This could look like telling yourself you’re talented and valuable at your job when you start to compare yourself to a coworker or stopping to appreciate your body when you see your reflection in a mirror. Allow your inner “mean girl” thoughts to pass as these thoughts are not always facts. During these times, speak to yourself like you would speak to your best friend. What would you tell your friend if they were thinking or feeling like you are in the moment?
While it may sound silly, keep your thank you notes, letters of recommendation, awards, pictures, and anything else that makes you feel happy and proud. On days when you are questioning yourself, you can pull out this sunshine box to remind yourself how amazing you are!
Self care should not be something you force yourself to do. These practices will refuel you, helping you to take care of yourself and support those around you. Engaging in self care has been clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, increase happiness, and more. It can help you adapt to changes, build strong relationships, and recover from setbacks. Taking time for yourself by doing self care activities should be practiced daily, if possible. This could be treating yourself to your favorite coffee, being creative, journaling, watching an episode of your favorite show, going on a bike ride, reading a book, and so much more. Find an activity that brings you joy and makes you feel the happiest!
Oftentimes this may be unthought about, but be mindful of your circle. Today we can have thousands of followers on social media and hundreds of phone numbers saved on our phones, but who is actually a part of our circles? The people you can have meaningful and real relationships with are the most important relationships in your circle. The people that are closest to you are the ones that influence you the most. Without supportive, loving, and authentic relationships, you won’t be able to find happiness. Who you are spending time with, what you are listening to and watching, and how social media affects you, can all impact your state of mind and comparison to others.
Setting goals helps trigger new healthy behaviors, guides your focus, and sustains your momentum. Whether your goals are big or small, the first step to achieving them is to decide what they are. Start with the things you enjoy. We are happiest when we use our strengths. Identify any goals associated with your strengths. Make sure you focus on what you want to do, not what you think you should do. Goals also help align your focus and promote a sense of self-mastery. Set small achievable goals and celebrate them once complete. This will help you feel accomplished which is a great boost to self confidence.
Personal development styled podcasts and books help you progress. They push you, motivate you, and inspire you to do more in a better way. They expand your world view and introduce you to fellow people who have lived through similar struggles and achieved what can currently feel like the impossible. Life is about learning every day and changing for the better. Focusing on your personal development increases your self awareness, self esteem, skills, and fulfills your aspirations.
We’re socialized to be competitive, so comparing ourselves to others is natural. But it can be dangerous. There’s no point in comparing yourself to anyone else, because there’s only one you! Instead, focus on yourself and your journey. This shift of energy will help you feel free. I urge you to try some of the suggestions listed above to positively affect your mental health. Your ability to love yourself, self esteem, and self confidence are like a muscle and take practice to strengthen. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to make mistakes.