One of the toughest challenges about being human is to learn to stop comparing oneself to others. It’s been said many times — this is a swift and efficient train to “destination unhappiness.”
I have struggled with comparisons as much as anyone.
Report cards from as far back as third- and fourth-grade detail my tendency to look at my fellow students’ work instead of my own — not to copy but to compare. And Army spouses are just as susceptible to it, perhaps more susceptible in some ways because of the competitive nature of our world.
The comparison game can take many different forms.
Perhaps we compare our possessions to another’s or the chic way someone decorates their home.
Or we compare our appearance and feel we come up short. Or someone’s ability to entertain effortlessly (this is a big one for me).
Or even the way their seemingly compliant children behave when held up to our own unruly prodigy.
Sadly, I have even been known to compare my dog’s behavior to others’ pets.
As we all know intellectually, there will always be people who are stronger in certain areas and weaker in others.
There will always be people who are more “successful”, prettier and handsomer, thinner and fitter, more charismatic and on and on.
The trick is to acknowledge that you’re comparing yourself and gently stop doing it, preferably without harsh judgment.
In the world of military spouses, I think there is a tendency to compare a great deal.
Am I volunteering as much as those women are? Is my family readiness group as successful as hers? And so on.
It is easy to judge other spouses based on very little information, which can foster negative feelings and ultimately affect how we get along with one another, which in turn can jeopardize this institution we all support in one way or another.
The question is, how do we stop this cycle in its tracks?
Awareness comes first, as I mentioned.
Then comes an oldie but a goodie — counting your blessings. When the comparison monster lurks in my life, I try to think of all that I DO have: health, family, friends, etc.
Another technique is to remind yourself of your own strengths. For example, I have friends who routinely throw huge parties with little or no catering assistance.
They seem to do this effortlessly and always (in my mind) “perfectly.”
Since I do not possess this skill, it looms large among those that I want, and envy in others.
Of course, what I don’t see is the process these women go through each time they entertain, or the sacrifices they make to pull off a fabulous soiree.
And just because this may not be my “strong” area, doesn’t mean I can’t learn from them and improve. That is always a choice I have.
Or I can choose to admit that this isn’t my favorite thing to do and hire caterers when we have a large crowd to feed.
Another tip for minimizing comparisons is to view life as a long journey that is full of opportunities to learn, to grow and to evolve. It is not a competition with a win-lose outcome.
Psychiatrist Judith Orloff has some good tips in a blog she wrote a few years ago. One of my favorites is, “give to others what you most desire for yourself.”
In other words, if you want love, give love, if you want your work to be valued, value others’ work. I think of it like giving someone a Christmas or birthday gift that you secretly want.
The theory is that good karma will come back to you, and it usually does.
Another blogger named Sonya Derian shares a different perspective. She suggests that because we are all on a journey, comparing yourself to yourself and how you’ve made progress in a particular area over time is actually healthy.
She asks: “So, instead of training it to stop comparing altogether, why not simply redirect the comparison to a past and a present self and keep the comparison within?”
Becoming a “non-comparer” is a journey unto itself and is not something most of us can do cold turkey.
But being mindful of it, appreciating your own uniqueness and all your many blessings, and encouraging good things for others are ways we can keep the comparison game under control.
“Why compare yourself with others? No one in the entire world can do a better job of being you than you.” ~Unknown