I am always comparing myself to other people and it’s soul sucking. It’s interesting because I rarely compare myself to someone I perceive is doing worse than I am, instead I compare where I am to someone who seems to be doing better. And even worse, I compare myself to the well-known others who do what I do – you know – the hyper successful coaches, the ones who become overnight successes in middle age.
For example, when I got up this morning, I looked at the clock and immediately thought, “A successful entrepreneur would have gotten up earlier than this.” Seriously, Becky? Who? And, the night before, had they danced like a wild woman at a women only entrepreneur event after getting up at the crack of dawn to go to a Chamber of Commerce meeting?
Comparing vs monkey-see-monkey-do
I do this all the time. Every darn day. I’ve done this my entire life. Unfortunately, it’s consistent with my learning style: monkey-see-monkey-do. If I watch someone do something like prepare a dish, or paint a room, or create an ad, or build a website, I can usually do it, too.
As you might guess, that learning style lends itself to constant comparisons. Oh, she held the whisk that way. She used this bit of code to get that button to work. Constant comparison. Luckily for me, those types of comparisons are productive. They help me master new things quickly – which I love.
On the other hand, the comparisons that leave me feeling inadequate and defeated are destructive. They’re disrespectful. And, they’re deleterious to my mental health. I have to stop doing it. But, oh my goodness, how do I stop?
How to stop
It’s such a tough question that I had to go out and take a walk to figure out a strategy. And, as I was walking, I realized that comparisons are about feeling like I’m not enough. That I’ll never be enough.
Which boils down to two of my favorite constructs: presence and gratitude. As someone who is always looking into the future, I forget to stay present in the here and now. And, when I get into a comparison loop, I’m not inhabiting my own world, I’m inhabiting someone else’s. I’m assuming that I should be living my life like this coach or that blogger or that writer.
Did you catch it? The kiss of doom phrase in that sentence? I know you did – it’s should be. There is no easier way to be disconnected from my own life than thinking I should be doing something else.
Should be surrenders my life to someone else’s picture of how my life should play out. Because, and pay attention here, should be is never, ever, ever about taking responsibility for my own life.
The phrase that shouts “I’m in control here and proud of it!” is “Here’s what I’m doing.” Present tense all the way. Anchored in the here and now. Not looking into the future or reaching back into the past – “I’m doing this right here and right now!”
Remember to pause
So, here’s my strategy – and it’s an oldie, goldie – pause when I’m trapped in the comparison/ should cycle and make a conscious effort to say out loud, “Here’s what I’m doing now.” The word now is strategic because it automatically pulls me back into the present.
Does it work? Yep. I’m currently in a learning curve where it takes me a couple of minutes to recognize that I’m in comparison mode. And, I have to say, I’m catching the comparisons faster.
The next trick to recognizing that I am doing what I need to do right now is to express gratitude for the opportunity to be right here, right now, doing my work and living my life on my terms. To shift to gratitude for the opportunities before me, I have to actually see and recognize them. Which means I have to operate in the present.
Gratitude and Grounding
I have to both operate in the present and stay present in my own life – not expending precious energy comparing my life to someone else’s. Gratitude keeps me grounded in the present and guarantees that I see the gifts and opportunities that are laid out before me.
Now, when I get stuck comparing myself to others and thinking “I should,” I pause, acknowledge what I’m doing “now,” and then say out loud that I’m grateful for my life the way it is right now. And it works. I feel better. I feel empowered to continue moving forward at my speed, on my terms.