Comparison- oh man! How often do comparison thoughts come creeping in to set up camp in your headspace? Comparison is a common habit that can plague you in just about any realm of life- work, family, leisure, social media, and on and on and on. There is always going to be someone doing life a bit different than you, and this invites comparison!
Comparison can be problematic in that it takes your focus away from your own life. Getting caught up in comparison and then spending hours on end hyperfocused on another person’s life does nothing to to fuel your own. Comparison can take you down a rabbit hole of negative thoughts that do not serve you. Here are a few ideas of how to meet comparison head on:
1. Be Aware
First things first, you’ve got to notice those comparison thoughts! When you move through the world unaware of your internal experience and thoughts, you can find yourself sitting in thoughts of comparison far too long. Before attempting to change or challenge comparison, you must be aware that it is there. There might be other cues, like a change in mood or attitude, or a change in your behavior or interaction with others that can clue you into the fact that you are starting to compare.
2. Break down the comparison
Get curious and ask yourself where the power of the comparison is coming from. Is another person doing something that you want do? Being something you want to be? Feeling something you want to feel? When you can explore the feeling, rather than running from it or drowning in it, it can be an opportunity for great insight!
Be compassionate with yourself. First, be compassionate over the fact that you are experiencing comparison thoughts. It is normal to fall into comparison, and its really not helpful to beat yourself up for having these thoughts. Second, be compassionate about the comparison, If your curiosity (from #2) helped you identify something that you are wanting in your own life, be understanding of that need or desire. You might also start to make a plan of how you can cultivate this need or desire in your own life- not for the sake of being “as good” or “better than”, but for the sake of recognizing and meeting your own needs.
4. Challenge the validity
It is so easy to make a split second comparison (hello, social media)- you see one post from a friend or acquaintance or celebrity; hold that up to your own day and life; and determine that you are coming up short. Remember, you have all the information about your experience, and about 10 seconds of information about the other experience. It is not a fair comparison.
5. Practice gratitude and kindness
I have heard this on a couple podcasts (the one that immediately comes to mind is Awesome with Alison), but the concept is this: in those moments of comparison when you feel yourself falling short or being envious of another person, switch those thoughts to ones that celebrate that person’s work or accomplishment. You don’t need to deny the initial feeling, just shift the momentum of the thoughts.
To learn more or to book an appointment, contact me via telephone or email.
Brenna Burke, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Santa Clarita, CA. She provides individual psychotherapy and couples counseling. Information provided through this website is for informational purposes only. It does not create a therapist-client relationship and does not replace clinical assessment or professional consultation.