By Janelle Ryan
Today I’d love you to meet Karen. Karen is intelligent, funny, worldly, friendly, warm and successful. But Karen feels she has a problem. Karen cannot stop comparing herself to other people. As much as she would love to.
Karen’s practice of comparing herself to others has gone beyond, what she considers harmless tiny bouts of “oh, having that would be nice”, and morphed into a tidal wave of pure envy that renders her unable to socialise with some of her friends. The pain of seeing what they have, and what she does not, is tooooo upsetting for her. Karen told me that, logically, she knows everyone is on their own path and not everyone’s lives are perfect. But the overwhelming feeling of lack and jealousy is causing her to feel disempowered, hopeless and less than confident about her future.
Why do we compare ourselves to others, sometimes obsessively? Why don’t we just live our lives our way, without worrying about what our friends/family/neighbours/colleagues are doing?
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. Maslow believed people move through different stages of five needs that motivate our behaviour. He called these needs physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem and self actualisation. For our purposes today, let’s focus on esteem. Maslow tells us our overall esteem is linked to self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others and respect by others.
One of the easiest ways our mind searches for proof of achievement is by comparing where we sit on the ‘scale of life’, to where we perceive others to sit. We compare salaries, income, cars, jobs, houses, behaviour of children, partners, hair styles, body composition – the list goes on and on.
The practice of comparing ourselves to others becomes a problem when we idolise our friends, colleagues, neighbours and sometimes people we don’t even know. We fail to take into account their humanness. Everyone has hardship, struggles and challenges in their life. Yet sometimes we dismiss this – instead obsessing on what they have and we don’t. This has the ability to spiral us into feelings of dissatisfaction and frustration.
On the flip side, this can be a healthy and positive practise when it motivates us to move forward, challenge ourselves and achieve something we want in our lives. This practise can also be a great way to clarify your vision. If you find yourself feeling envious of someone, check in with yourself. Get curious. What are you envious about? What is it they have that you’d love to have? Once you know the answer work out what you are going to do with that information, then let the feeling go.
Here are my TOP 5 TIPS for letting go of unhealthy comparisons to others:1Be grateful for what you have. There are people going through hardships you would never wish to face. 2Work out your top 5 values and live in alignment with them. Every single day! 3Ban the word “should” from your vocabulary. 4Let go of perfectionism – embrace humanism, in yourself and others. 5Remember you are in one chapter of your life – the book isn’t closed yet. Get clear on YOUR vision for YOUR life and stay on the path.
Janelle Ryan is a Change Catalyst who helps high achievers get out of their own way, align their actions with their goals and create a life they desire and truly deserve.