How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others so You Can Be Happy

The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel. ~ Steven Furtick

Heartbreaking isn’t it?

The way we crush our happiness by constantly comparing ourselves to others.

If you’ve ever struggled with insecurity or lack of confidence, you know that gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach that you’re just not good enough. That you’re not skilled enough, courageous enough, or smart enough. And you’ve likely fallen into the comparison trap with no way out.

Most of us can identify with feeling inferior when we compare ourselves with others. But how about those times when we compare out of pride?

Steven Furtick’s quote above can easily be reworked this way:

The reason why we struggle with pride is because we compare our highlight reel with everyone else’s behind the scenes.

We quietly pride ourselves for having more income than the next person. We’re secretly proud when we’re better educated or better looking than our friends or acquaintances. This may boost your ego in the short-term, but it’s really no different from comparing out of insecurity. You’ll constantly be looking over your shoulder because someone else will always be richer, better educated, or better looking than you. Maybe not today, but someday.

Whether the comparison trap has us struggling with insecurity, pride, or both, the result is the same: we become overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. We become unhappy.

The Trouble With Fighting The Comparison Trap

Attempting to escape the comparison trap is a daunting proposition. The desire to compare seems built right into our DNA and our culture.

From the time we’re born, we’re compared to siblings or other family members as babies. We’re compared in the classroom, on the playground, and at the workplace. We internalize the ways others compared us to the world and we do the same thing to ourselves. The act of comparing is as natural as breathing.

As with other challenges of a spiritual nature, the comparison trap cannot be fought directly.

Three steps to help you break free

So how do we break free of the comparison trap without actively fighting it? Here are a few ideas:

1. Observe yourself

The first step is to simply be aware of the fact that we compare ourselves to others – even when we know better. Notice yourself in a kind, compassionate, and non-judgmental manner. Ask yourself “What personal need is my comparing trying to serve?”

2. Become a skeptic

Approach your perceptions about others with a healthy dose of skepticism. Instead of letting your mind run amok with fantasies of how the other person is better than you in every aspect of life (or vice versa), realize that every other person has their own “highlight reel” and “behind the scenes.”

3. Practice radical acceptance

Tara Brach in her book Radical Acceptance writes:

Radical acceptance is the willingness to experience ourselves and our lives as it is. A moment of radical acceptance is a moment of genuine freedom.

To do this requires the decision to love all of who you are right now, not who you were in the past or who you aspire to become. It means being compassionate with yourself when you fall short and resolving to try again. It means accepting that you cannot be great at everything. When insecurity urges you to compare yourself to others, say “I accept myself fully and completely.”

Love yourself as your neighbor

Want to be free of the comparison trap? Start with these simple steps.

They’ll remind you that the people you’re comparing yourself to have struggles similar to your own. Celebrate their strengths and victories with them. Encourage them when they’re down.

Love them through it all.

And do the same for yourself.

 

  • Zarayna Pradyer

    Thank you for this reminder, George.
    At one time or another, we have all done this. Trying to look at a beneficial side, I suppose we like to feel safe within the social boundaries by comparing and contrasting our achievements with those around us. But, as we get older and should have learnt more, comparing ourselves all the time is very ego-centric and therefore pretty painful. Best to get absorbed in the big wide world and ‘forget’ about ourselves.
    Thanks and kindest.

    • Totally agree Zarayna. I think forgetting about ourselves can be a great help in avoiding the comparison trap!

  • Paula Ronen

    You can only compare what is “measurable” (income, weight, height, the size of a house; the market value of a car); you cannot compare spiritual concepts: inner peace, happiness, uniqueness, love, self-esteem. Ironically, we focus – inconsciously- on “measurable” things… in order to achieve those things that are beyond measure. More ironically, focusing on “measurable” things sometimes get us away from happiness and love, but when we nurture those “unmesurable things”… we get easily all the material stuff we really need.

    • Very well said Paula. It’s so true how we focus on the measurable and the physical in order to unconsciously satisfy our deeper spiritual needs that cannot be compared or measured. Thank you for sharing this 🙂