How Do We Stop Comparing Ourselves to Others and Start Focusing on Our Goals?
by Abigail Phang. |
From the first time we looked at the amount of cake given to our sibling and said, “They got a bigger piece, that’s not fair!”, to when we mindlessly scrolled through social media and thought, “I wish I had what they have”, our whole life has revolved around comparison, be it knowingly or unknowingly. Comparison may be used as a positive tool, fuelling us to work harder in order to achieve our goals or live up to others’ achievements; however, most of the time, it brings adverse effects.
Comparison is the stem of many of our insecurities and materialistic desires which may or may not have been present prior to us comparing ourselves with others. Perhaps you were fairly proud of your drawing skills until you saw that amazingly talented artist’s work on Instagram, or maybe you were satisfied with your way of life until you heard about that friend of yours touring Europe. Either way, these feelings of lack, inadequacy and being subpar are not naturally-occurring, rather they are being instilled in us through our own thoughts and perceptions.
Oftentimes, we take our weaknesses and flaws, and compare them with others’ strengths. Doing so results in unfair and inaccurate judgment about our own abilities, making us think that we are simply not good enough, or would never measure up to someone else. This distracts us from our goals as we lose confidence in ourselves and our capability to achieve success. We may also be left dejected, feeling worthless and incapable. This negative mindset can greatly affect our daily living, mental health, and productivity.
Knowing this, how then, should we combat this phenomenon and stop comparing ourselves to others?
1. Be aware
The first step to stop comparing yourself to others is to be aware that you are doing it. Be mindful of your thoughts and take them captive whenever you feel the habit of comparison surfacing. Make a practical effort to stop these thoughts and change your mindset, that is, dismissing them immediately when they surface, or simply diverting your thoughts towards something else. Whenever you notice yourself slipping into thoughts such as “I wish I could be more like them”, or “I could never live up to that”, remind yourself that the both of you are two different beings with separate lives, and that you are on a journey of constantly improving yourself. Hence, you should not be comparing your process with someone else’s when they’re on a different path altogether.
2. Adopt a positive mindset
Instead of reacting to others’ achievements negatively, such as feeling envious of them, try to be genuinely happy and excited for them. Although this may be hard and pretentious to begin with, you will soon start celebrating others’ successes with true joy. As simple as it sounds, all you have to do is to take that first step of complimenting and congratulating others, and the emotions would soon follow.
You are encouraged to apply this positive mindset to yourself as well. Be happy for yourself for your little achievements and celebrate them in your own way. Instead of thinking of how far off you are from others, start acknowledging how you are progressing every day, and constantly remind yourself that everyone’s journey is different and hence should not be subjected to comparison.
3. Acknowledge your uniqueness
Everyone is unique and special in their own way - some people may be amazing improvisers, while some are excellent in planning. Neither is ahead of or better than the other, they are both valuable skills that come in handy in different situations. Likewise, yourself as a whole, including your looks, personality, talents, strengths, and flaws are not only unique, but they are necessary; and you should appreciate yourself for that!
Once you turn your focus from how you can win to how you can contribute with the skills you have, your approach to life will change; and results and satisfaction will follow subsequently.
4. Practice gratitude
Start this simple exercise: every night, think of the events that have occurred throughout your day and find at least 3 things to be thankful for. It can be simple, for example, be grateful that your public transportation arrived on time and you were able to make it to your destination smoothly; or it can be something more significant and personal, such as receiving a compliment for your work. Training ourselves to be grateful in the seemingly mundane things reminds us to not take things for granted; this also allows us to see how much we are actually blessed with, and there is no need to compare our life second-by-second with someone else’s.
5. Realize there’s a bigger part of the picture
You should also be aware that what you usually witness in others’ Instagram posts or Youtube vlogs may not be the complete picture. Someone may seem like they are living the ideal life, with all ups and no downs, but what you need to understand is that people often do not display the darker sides of their lives. The version of others on social media may not be truthfully reflecting what goes on behind closed doors; hence, you should not use someone’s outward appearance to judge the reality of their life. Doing so will only result in you comparing your lows with someone else’s highs, which is an unfair perception of yourself and others.
Although this may take a lot of practical effort, finally overcoming the comparison trap is a significant achievement, and one that will bring your great joy and relief in life. Moving on from this, we should start to focus on our goals, and how we can improve as a person.
1. Eliminate distractions
We are constantly surrounded by distractions, and even our own thoughts may act as one. Push yourself to actively resist and eliminate those things that are stopping you from focusing on your work and goals. For example, do not laze around in your bed right before a workout session, telling yourself that you would get up in “5 more minutes”. Chances are, you are going to get up later than that, or probably never get up at all. Instead, skip the bed and start the hustle. If you know that you’re not going to get anything done once you’re in bed, resist the temptation of even getting on it to begin with.
2. Change up your environment once in awhile
Of course, we’re not asking you to go to a different working space everyday; but there are certain days when we feel extra sluggish or demotivated. If you find it hard to focus when you’re locked up in your room all day, try switching it up! Go to a library or a new café to work.
The change in environment can stop you from associating your usual workplace with taxing tasks and stress, and a new atmosphere may provide a ‘fresh’ feeling, thus boosting your productivity.
3. Always keep your vision in mind
Constantly remind yourself of your goal and why you are doing what you are doing. As we begin on a journey of completing something, it is common that we may start to stray from our objective or lose hope and motivation, especially when you add comparison into the mix. Writing out your goals on a post-it note and sticking it where easily seen, or even just setting a certain picture as your phone wallpaper can serve as a reminder as to why you are doing what you are doing, and hence direct you back to the right track.
4. Be patient
When starting on your goal, it is important to note that you may not see results or vast improvements immediately. Being patient with the process and trusting your progress is a vital part to keep yourself focused on your goals. It can get tough but keep pushing through and you will see the fruits of your efforts in due time.
A personal example of this is when I had joined a debate competition back in Secondary School. I was completely new to the subject and had zero experience in debating. At the beginning of the preparation phase, my previously optimistic and enthusiastic demeanour had been diminished as I witnessed how skilled my opponents were. It immediately occurred to me that I could never compete with them, which resulted in me having second thoughts about quitting the competition. However, instead of entertaining those thoughts, I worked extra hard alongside the rest of my teammates in the following weeks, including researching various topics and conducting trial runs. In the end, our team successfully emerged as the champion.
All in all, we should actively try to correct our ways of thinking in order not to succumb to our old, negative mindset. Rather, we should live as a new and improved version of ourselves, focusing on the right things instead of entertaining pointless thoughts; for our thoughts shape our actions, which in turn shape our life!
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