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4 Ways to Ditch the Comparison Trap That’s Killing You

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Ever heard of the popular words, ‘comparison is the thief of joy’? This phrase couldn’t be more accurate. Comparing yourself to others around you will not only kill your happiness, but also affect your career, confidence, and even self-esteem.

The comparison habit is not easy to detect by just looking at a person. However, lots of people struggle from it. It starts manifesting itself as soon as you begin making progress. You shift from focusing on yourself to looking at what others have achieved or are doing. And what was once new and great becomes difficult and unexciting. Comparison is a trap that many of us get into without knowing. But with these tips, you can overcome it.

What Is the Comparison Trap?

Desiring better things than you currently have is okay. However, when you want to have a better house, better shape, or a better job than one of your colleagues, family member, or colleague, then you’ve most likely fallen into the comparison trap. The comparison trap is when you are unhappy with what you have because it does not measure up to what other people around you have. The several types are:

  • Talent. It happens when you compare your abilities to another person’s gifts. Therefore, you don’t notice your uniqueness and get disappointed when you can’t do what another person can do.
  • Financial resources. This is where you start comparing yourself to others in terms of financial capabilities.
  • Career comparison. Here you compare your success to someone who has been in the industry for more years and is, therefore, more successful. Or a person who has just started their career and has achieved more than you.
  • Social influence. Involves comparing yourself to someone who has more friends, followers, or subscribers online.
  • Personal stories or journeys. This is where you feel inferior to someone else because their personal or career story is more exciting or inspiring.

Comparison at work wastes your time, lowers your self-esteem, distracts you from what’s essential, and breeds resentment. Read on to know how to beat it.

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others and Become Self-Aware

The key to stopping self-destructive thoughts is to figure out where they stem from. When comparison feelings creep in, find out what triggers them. Do you feel this way when you see your acquaintances succeeding faster than you? Are these successes about careers, romantic life, or academic accomplishments? What is the cause of the problem exactly? While these questions may be hard or painful to ask yourself, knowing why you feel the way you do can help you to identify the right actions to beat the comparison trap.

1. Keep Yourself and Your Social Media in Check

Social media is one of the most popular uses of the internet. According to Pew Research, about 74% of Facebook users log on to the site daily, and 51% several times a day. Among young adults (18-29 years) on social media, 77% said they used Snapchat daily, and 76% used Instagram every day.

But social media is a culprit of comparison and envy because everyone shares the best parts of their lives. Few, if any, will share their hardships, struggles, disappointments, or painful aspects of their routine. So, you can easily get sucked into other peoples’ lavish lives and start feeling resentful because your life isn’t as eventful and luxurious as theirs.

If you are always feeling awful when you log in to your Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram, it’s time to switch up your feed. Unfriend or stop following people that make you feel inadequate to overcome social media comparison. Leave groups that contribute to your making comparisons. And change your advertisement setting so that you don’t get suggestions for things that make you feel under accomplished or unworthy. If you use it in the right way and limit your time on it, social media can contribute positively to your life.

2. Evaluate Current Individuality Against Your Past Self

When you constantly compare yourself to others, you will always feel like a failure. So, if you have to compare, the only person you should be comparing yourself to is yourself. That’s right, if you want to know if you are doing great today, compare yourself to who you were yesterday. Think about where you are now and where you were a year, a month, or a week ago.

Measuring your accomplishments to those of others isn’t positive. The only person it’s fair to compare yourself with is yourself. Have you achieved what you wanted to six months ago? Are you an improved version of your five years ago self? When you stop comparing yourself to others, you’ll feel more content with your life.

3. Be Empathetic Towards Others

The person you envy also has struggles, setbacks, and insecurities. You just don’t see them. See, you know yourself inside out (strengths, weaknesses, everything), but when it comes to other people, you only see things on the surface. By practicing empathy, you feel and understand what another person feels from his or her point of view.

Empathy is an essential quality even at the workplace, with 96% of employers saying that it is a vital employee attribute. Remember, unless you are the other person’s confidant, you can’t judge his or her life by just your outward view. So, appreciate that everyone’s life is complicated and don’t compare yourself to others.

4. Set Rewards for Your Accomplishments

Comparing your life to others prevents you from feeling the happiness and pride of success. The comparison trap makes you feel like your accomplishments are less worthy than someone else’s. Encourage and motivate yourself by rewarding your achievements, no matter how small they may seem. Goals are achieved one step at a time. And rewarding your milestones can help keep you on the right course. In the end, what other people accomplish will not matter when your mind is fixed on a prize.

All that said, remember that gauging yourself with other people will always make you feel like you do not measure up. Create a clear vision of who and where you would like to be and set goals that will lead you there. Keep working towards your goals, and you will soon reach where you want to be.

Life

7 Ways You Can Increase Your Concentration Right Away

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In today’s world, an overabundance of information and a large number of distractions is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on performing the necessary tasks. In this article, I propose 7 simple methods that will train your ability to concentrate, while not taking you from your usual activities. (more…)

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5 Simple Hacks to Help You Develop the Habit That Will Transform Your Life

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It’s excruciating when we know what’s killing us but we can’t do anything about it because as you know, it is not easy to pull the brake on a high way. According to Napoleon Hill, “remember this always – the best (and one might say the only) way in which old habits may be removed is to form new habits to counteract and replace the undesirable ones”. (more…)

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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Life

The Problem Is Not Actually the Problem: Here’s Why

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With my understanding of the Three Principles, which is deepening month-by-month, I’m becoming more curious about whether the ‘problem’ that we think we have, is really a problem. Not for one second am I dismissing a persons’ experience; I’m human after all and I encounter challenges and what I think are ‘problems’ just like the next person. (more…)

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