As previously seen on Wit & Delight
Editor’s Note: Given that our theme this month is all about cultivating self-compassion, we’re bringing this 2019 piece, written by Megan McCarty, back into the light. After all, our tendency to compare ourselves to others is one of the most fervent, consistent ways we perpetuate self-loathing…SO, let’s work to rid ourselves of that habit. Sound good? Okay, great. Below, fifteen ideas for doing exactly that. I’ll let Megan’s words take it from here.
Comparison, you thief!
Ain’t none of us have the time to waste on comparing our lives to others, whether those others sit next to us from 9-5 or live behind an Instagram handle. For the sake of our sanity, we gotta knock it off! Here are fifteen things you can do instead of comparing yourself to others. Some are distraction techniques, some dive into the psychology of it all, some will result in a cleaner refrigerator.
All of them, though, help eliminate the riffraff of comparison to clear the path for your own successes.
1. Know your triggers.
Are there certain neighborhoods, malls, mommy groups, or gym classes that make you feel less than? You don’t need to fully avoid them—in fact, exposure therapy might be beneficial—but take mental note (or a physical note!) of what sends you down that bumpy road to comparison so if you’re in an icky state of mind, you know to avoid it.
2. Do something for someone else.
Remember that episode of Friends in which Phoebe tries to find an unselfish good deed? There isn’t one, and that’s fine. Doing good things for good people makes you feel good. What’s so wrong with that?
3. Unfollow, mute, delete.
You don’t need to know what kind of natural wine that French blogger is sipping for happy hour or see shaky concert clips of the show you had to miss because you couldn’t find a babysitter. It’s simply unhealthy. Become friends with the mute button instead.
4. Go for a walk.
Walks cure everything, I’m sure of it. The combination of fresh air and a sense of meandering and letting your body move in the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other way it was born to do clears your head of that comparison clutter.
5. Crack open that gratitude journal.
Giving attention, even if it’s just a scribbled note in a journal, to the things you’re grateful for puts the emphasis on what you do have, not what you want or what they have or, more likely, what it looks like they have. Daily, tiny twists of perspective eventually pave the way for a new course of (grateful, positive) thought.
6. Smother your friends in quality compliments.
Tell your top people how much you admire their courage or humor. Venmo them $5 to get coffee. A little boost in their day = a little boost in your day = win/win. Here, steal some of these compliments.
7. Stop considering them others.
Whoever you’re comparing yourself to, they’re just living, breathing, burping people too, with insecurities and one wonky eyebrow just like you.
8. Spend more time working and less time consuming other people’s work.
Taking inspiration from others’ work is one thing; consuming too much of others’ work—especially first thing in the morning!—instead of making your own is another. Find space to both do your own thing while admiring their thing. May I recommend leaving certain apps closed until mid-day?
9. Remember everyone is too wrapped up in their own lives to worry about yours.
Unless you’re on the cover of a gossip magazine, trust me: People think about your life less than you think. Keep those blinders on and stay in your own lane.
10. Think of yourself as a child.
What would the little kindergarten-sized you think if she knew you were spending the first half-hour of the day scrolling through Instagram and then obsessing over the perceived lives of others? Do right by little you.
11. Manage your expectations.
Success doesn’t happen over the course of a decade, much less overnight. Remind yourself that everyone moves at their own pace, which is why some of us go back to grad school in our thirties or get published for the first time in our forties. You know the phrase: Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
12. Spend time with someone much older or much younger than you.
Breaking free from your peer group momentarily releases expectations of where you think you should be—career-wise, baby-making-wise, whatever-wise. The old are sage, the young are spontaneous, and both remind you of what really matters in life: being kind.
13. Reflect on something you did that’s all yours.
Make it through a harrowing childbirth? Nail that presentation? You did that. That’s yours. No one can take that away from you. Hold those moments close for little pats on your own back when things go off course.
This whole life thing goes by fast, which you know from those new spindly hairs sprouting on your chin and your baby who isn’t much of a baby anymore. A single second spent worrying about other people and their success or opinions is wasted time. Turns out you can get more money, more accolades, but you cannot ever, ever, ever get more time. Use it wisely.
15. Literally anything.
Scrub your refrigerator, stare into space, count to 1,000. Anything, literally anything, is more productive than comparing yourself to others.
Megan is a writer, editor, etc.-er who muses about life, design and travel for Domino, Lonny, Hunker and more. Her life rules include, but are not limited to: zipper when merging, tip in cash and contribute to your IRA. Be a pal and subscribe to her newsletter Night Vision.