written by Mick Ukleja

The Dreaded Curse of Comparison

5 Ways To Counteract The Spell

Apple and OrangeOf all the lessons there are to learn in life, one stands out for me.  What is that lesson?  It’s learning to be myself.

“Be yourself: everyone else is taken.” – Oscar Wilde

I’ve discovered that learning the lesson doesn’t happen in a day, but it does happen daily.

What being yourself doesn’t mean:

  • It’s not an excuse for bad behavior
  • It doesn’t mean you can’t learn from others
  • It never implies there’s no room for growth

What being yourself does mean:

  • It’s okay to be different from someone else
  • It involves accepting your talents and skills
  • It’s growing to appreciate your personality, likes, and dislikes

What’s the curse?  It’s that nagging – sometimes relentless – feeling that everyone else has it figured out, and you are the only one that can’t get your act together – that you are somehow being left behind.

We are all inflicted with this curse to some extent.  Here are 5 antidotes to counteract that spell.

1.    Take the envy test.  Let’s call it the ECI (the Envy Counteraction Inventory).  An honest and accurate appraisal will lead to self-awareness.  Self-awareness gives us the ability to self-regulate.  You can’t manage what you don’t know.  Do you compare…

  • your life
  • your wife
  • your home
  • your husband

Do you compare…

  • your clothes
  • your car
  • your friends
  • your kids

…with those physically and virtually around you (i.e. social media)?

An honest answer points out your comparables.  Make a list of what you truly value and you will immediately see there are more worthy things to focus on.  It’s difficult to change the feelings that lead to envy, but you can change your perspective.  Feelings will follow.

2.    Recognize faulty assumptions.  We can’t possibly know what’s going on in someone else’s life.  We don’t understand their journey or the lessons they are learning.  What they are experiencing is usually tougher than we assume.

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer

3.    Choose belonging over fitting in.  Remember how we tormented our souls in middle school and high school to fit in?  To be accepted we had to be like everyone else.  When everybody strives to be like everybody, then everybody is nobody.  I honed my chameleon skills and got pretty good at posing and impersonating.  My classmates and I confused fitting in with belonging.  Belonging results from being accepted for who you are – come as you are.  Fitting in results from being accepted for what others expect – come as we expect you to be.  Fitting is exhausting.  Belonging is energizing.

4.    Exchange “the best” for “your best”.  This subtle distinction results in a major shift in perspective.  Striving to be the best can result in a no win proposition.  There is always someone with more talent, money, wisdom, beauty, brains, and friends.  It creates an atmosphere of winners and losers, and the majority always feel like losers.  Being your best adds value to others.

“My hero is always 10 years away.  I’m never going to attain that. That keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.” – Matthew McConaughey, Oscar acceptance speech

Get clear on what you should focus on.  Only compare yourself to the person you were yesterday.  Becoming a better version of yourself is the cornerstone for a stable life.

5.    Embrace your uniqueness as a virtue.  Being yourself is virtue, and like any virtue, it can be lost.  It is to be valued and protected.  Trying to be someone other than you is a form of self-betrayal.  It erodes self-confidence.   A virtuous life includes embracing your uniqueness, and guarding it.

Permission to be yourself does not come from others.  If you look for it, or wait for it, you’ve lost it.  Permission to be yourself comes from you.  It’s not without friction, tension, and risk.  And it might seem easier to go with the flow.  Yet doing the work is manageable, and the results are exponential – both personally and professionally.

“Today you are you, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive that is Youer than you.”  Dr. Seuss

What has helped you decrease your “compare-offs?”

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03.04.2014

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