From an early age we are taught to make comparisons. In science class, we compared the reaction of two chemical processes. In English class, we compared characters in a story. In history class, we compared the causes and effects of two wars. As juniors and seniors in high school we may have compared one college to another until we decided where we wanted to apply. And as we get older and move into adulthood, we continue to make comparisons on a daily basis to help determine important decisions. But when does making comparisons become destructive and hurtful?
Instead of using our skill of comparing and contrasting to make informed decisions, we use it to determine our self-worth, our development or progress (or lack thereof) in certain areas, and in most cases, we use it to tear ourselves down. We often focus our comparisons on our physical appearance, abilities and material possessions which sometimes leave us feeling inadequate. For example:
I’m natural, but my hair doesn’t look like hers; it’s so coarse and kinky
Look at her. She just seems to have it all together. Unlike me…
I’m _________ age, and I’m not married. I must be doing something wrong because everyone I know are either married or getting married.
If I had a bigger [insert word] or a smaller [insert word] like so and so, he would want me.
Making comparisons like these is often a sign of low self-esteem because it shows that you are not happy with the person you are or with what you have in your life. Your comparisons tend to focus on aspects of your life that you don’t like, and as a result, you view yourself with an overly critical eye. When I think about my life, I can definitely relate to this. I’ve found that when I make comparisons that are negative, they often reflect the negative things that I already think about myself.
Making negative comparisons about yourself can affect how you interact with others. When you view yourself critically, you often expect others to view you in the same way. So however you feel about yourself, you conclude that others feel the same way. For example, if you think that you’re unattractive, you probably expect others to view you as unattractive as well. So when you see a fine man that makes you go “GOT DARN,” instead of talking to him, you say to yourself,
I can’t talk to him. He probably thinks that I’m ugly. And I’m probably not his type anyway.
Instead of taking the opportunity to meet someone, you are projecting your negative thoughts about yourself onto someone else, and as a result, you may have missed an opportunity to meet someone great. Or, maybe you missed a career opportunity because you didn’t think that you were good enough to apply for the job.
Do we all have things we don’t like about our body? Heck yeah. Are there things that we may wish that we were better at? Definitely. Are there people that may have more money or drive nicer cars? Yes. But should you let those perceived shortcomings or flaws define you or determine your self-worth? Absolutely NOT!
It’s not easy to stop making comparisons. After all, we’ve been doing it for a long time. But it’s important to try. Here are a few suggestions to combat this bad habit:
1. Change your thoughts
- Think about what you are thinking about. Sometimes we don’t even realize what we’re thinking about and before we know it, our mind has gone towards a negative place. We must be conscious of our thoughts.
- When you start to negatively compare yourself to others, cut those thoughts off immediately. Make a conscious decision to change your thought pattern.
2. Rehearse positive thoughts
- Tell yourself that what that person has or doesn’t have does not impact you.
- Speak positive things about yourself. It may be hard at first, and you may not believe what you are saying, but the more you practice it, the more you will start to believe.
3. Focus on the positive
- Make a list of positive things. Include:
- What do you like about yourself? Your life?
- What do you do well?
- What makes you happy?
I’ll leave you with a powerful quote that I read in The Word for You Today:
“When you focus your attention on who you aren’t by comparing yourself with someone else, you lose sight of who you need to become.”
Don’t lose sight of how wonderful you are because you’re too busy comparing.
I Want To Know:
- Have you ever been guilty of negatively comparing yourself to others?
- Have you ever missed out on an opportunity because you didn’t think you were good enough?
- What strategies do you use to stop comparing yourself to others?