Hello everybody, welcome to episode 164 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Very thankful to be with you today and to be able to answer another listener’s question. Today we’ve got one about self-comparison…that little devil. Let’s take a look at self-comparison, how it changes with age, why we compare with others, and what we can do to make that change healthy. Here’s the listener’s question…
QUESTION: “One thing I struggle with is learning not to compare myself with others. It's a continuous battle. There are days when I feel like I have overcome it, but eventually the habit of comparing myself always comes back. It's something I guess you learn to deal with better as you get older, but I wish the solution came easier.”
Aging and Comparing with Others
Ok, great question. Thank you for sending this in. I think you’re absolutely right that it will get easier with age, but it’s still a part of who you are now and the fact that you’re addressing it as something you know is there and you’d like to work on is really great.
You’re going to age very gracefully if you can explore any of the uncomfortable feelings you get rather than resist them, so keep it up.
Now while self-comparison does lessen with age, it’s important to remember that the reason for that is not simply getting older. It’s not like self-comparison goes away with age the same way that hairs go gray with age.
It happens because of the life experiences people have over time, and how they change their priorities and their lifestyles as a result of those changes.
And though you can’t really rush those things, there are ways to make adjustments now that I think can help you see things a little bit clearer and make you not need to compare as much.
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Evaluate the Comparisons You Make
So let’s start with this question: If you think you’ll get better at not comparing yourself as you age, what do you think are the kinds of comparisons you’ll feel are silly when you’re older?
Self-comparison is like bad eating in some ways. Everyone knows you need to eat more fruits and vegetables; it’s not rocket science. But they eat less of them anyway.
What comparisons are you making that you already know aren’t about important things? What can you envision your future self laughing at your younger self for?
Sit on this question and see what you can come up with.
Be Willing to Experiment
Once you’ve come up with some answers, think now about triggers these things. While you’re right in that self-comparison is a more youthful urge, that doesn’t mean it’ll exist to the same degree if it’s not properly triggered – not by a long shot – and you’re largely responsible for those triggers.
So if you can get some ideas about what might trigger the comparisons that you know in your heart aren’t important, it’s time to experiment with removing those triggers.
And don’t get nervous, I’m not telling you to upend your life. I’m just saying to experiment.
Evaluate Your Social Media Usage
Social media tends to be a big trigger for self-comparison. Do you think that’s something that’s affecting you negatively? If so, maybe try a week without it and see how you feel.
I can tell you with confidence that you won’t miss anything life-altering by being away from it.
Evaluate Your Friendships
Or maybe you have a friend who’s always talking about people’s looks, intelligence, or whatever it is that you find yourself drawing negative comparisons over. That would be a big trigger.
If so, you could see how it feels to spend less time with that friend for a little bit, or when you are with them, you can regularly try to redirect those conversations or counter them by offering compliments to people that he or she might be speaking poorly of.
These are just a few ideas, but what else can you come up with?
Look for Patterns
Quick tip: If you’re drawing a blank, one thing you might want to think about is what’s different about those days that you say you feel you’ve overcome your self-comparison? What’s going right on those days? What do they have in common?
If you can find patterns that exist exclusively on those days, you might get better insight into how you can create those same patterns on days when you do find yourself slipping back into the habit of self-comparison.
So, look, when all is said and done, what is comparison really about? It’s about fitting in. Right? It all goes back to that innate need to be respected and have significance. It’s an entirely normal thing; show me someone who doesn’t want some degree of recognition for their efforts.
If this is the case, try to imagine who in your life you feel would think less of you or talk down about you if you didn’t compare very well in certain areas. Whose affection are you afraid of not getting, and why?
How to Compare With Others Less: Conclusion
I recommend exploring these thoughts and seeing who you come up with. If you can do that, maybe it’s time to have a conversation with those people, or you might just come to the realization that they aren’t healthy people for you to be hanging out with right now.
Even if you did measure up well enough to please these people’s qualifications or ideas of what is good enough, you’d have a very limited relationship with them as long as they’d only like you for your achievements. You can’t dance for these people forever, nor should you – especially if they don’t have or are not yet able to have real respect for you.
Meanwhile, you can double down on the people that are on the other end of the spectrum; the people who you know love you just the same. You can also double down on the things that you love that have nothing to do with comparison.
The more relationships you can harvest like this, or things in your life that you can be effortlessly proud of, the less comparison you’ll find yourself drawing. This is the case for healthy adults who successfully rid themselves of a lot of self-comparison.
It’s not that they get old enough for the self-comparison gene to just wither away. Rather, they get rid of meaningless things in their lives that aren’t worth their precious time. And that’s something you can start doing right now.
Another one in the books folks. Thank you so much, once more, to the asker. I hope I was able to clear some things up for you today and that you feel you have a little more control over this going forward.
Either way, I’d just like to reiterate what I said at the top of the episode: this is something that you’re dealing with right now. And as long as you honor it and explore it the way you are, the more likely you are to understand why it’s there, draw new conclusions and cut yourself a little less slack.
This is when tougher feelings can start to have a better impact, which is, of course, good times. Anyone out there who has a question of their own that they need help with, please send it on in, as we’d be so happy to help you out. Email your question or concern to advice AT oldpodcast.com
Thanks for being here today, folks, and be sure to come back again next time as we keep trucking along and doing what we can for you guys. See you all then.