After my first blog, “Why I’m Living Through It,” Nick responded by writing how at the age of 20, his entire life turned upside down when his father died, and his family lost their home.
He abandoned his education and relocated out of Denver to work so that he can support his mother.
He concludes, “All my friends my age are going to school, studying abroad, doing anything they desire while their parents foot the bill effortlessly. I don’t know really anyone else in my shoes, I feel like an alien.”
From where I’m sitting, I think Nick is on an incredible journey. He’s disturbing the universe and making it a better place for himself, his mom, and others who cross his path.
It’s hard though, not to look at others and compare what we’re going through to their seemingly easier lives.
But beware: constantly putting our lives up against how others live their lives traps us in a vicious circle, and there’s actually a name for it: the comparison trap.
Let’s face it, when’s the last time you posted something on Facebook, something you really thought would generate interest, only to see a friend’s post garner dozens more comments and likes. (And his post was just a stupid cat photo!!)
If we even go down that road, the list for comparison seems endless: whether it’s you, or your education, your job, your parents, your kids, your spouse or partner, Pinterest pins, Twitter followers, and did I mention the number of Facebook friends? My guess is someone has it better than us, in every single category.
Denver Counseling and Executive Life Coaching Therapist Frances Forgione says that’s because “we often think that our performance plus approval equals our self worth or value. When we compare, we are often asking the question ‘Am I good enough? Am I valued? Am I normal? Am I important? Am I significant?”
Yeah, so am I? I love to cook, but my food never looks like my friend’s Pinterest posts.
I love to ride my bike, but I never get as many miles on Strava as my friends A.H. or T.F.
I studied hard for my degree but I never got a graduate degree, like the rest of my siblings and parents!
I scoured the web for how others deal with the comparison trap, and here’s what I found:
- “The trap of comparison is that whether we feel ‘less than’ someone else or ‘better than’ another person, we’re stuck in a negative loop. Comparison leads to jealousy, anxiety, judgment, criticism, separation, loneliness and more.”
- “Sometimes all the inspiration stalking I do , turns into paralyzation. The things that were meant to inspire me , suddenly have me immobilized by my insecurity.”
- “I remind myself that where they are at in life says nothing about where I should be. Their life is not a measure of how (un)successful I am.”
That all sounds great, on my good days, except that our culture does tend to value me if I do x, y or z.
Forgione says that’s why we have to dig deeper, “Our core value is not conditional and has nothing to do with our performance. I think the spirit behind what you do is more important than what you do.”
Now that is something I can resonate with, ‘the spirit behind what I do is more important than what I do,’ as a person who has lived through more than my share of mistakes and trials and challenges.
So with that in mind here are four ways I choose to live through and shake off the comparison trap, even if only for today.
- Know who I am. I’m trying to understanding myself better. When I’m constantly checking out what someone else is doing, I often feel like I can’t measure up, and God knows I have plenty to do all by myself. Note to self: stop looking over there so often!
- I’m a work in progress. I have not arrived, big surprise, in fact I’m far from it. Every path I take is part of this journey I’m on, and it’s a journey that isn’t for anyone else but me.
- I’m thankful. My goodness, I have an awesome husband, an amazing family, live in Denver, have a new job, and I know I’m loved. Why would I ever get stuck in a comparison trap? (Because I do.)
- Keep laughing! Do not take myself so seriously. Seriously! I need to embrace my mistakes and laugh at myself whenever possible. As my good friend Jasna Spaic, whose apartment was bombed during the war in Bosnia, said to me, “What other way is there to look, but up?”
Still, sometimes I do forget! When that happens, I go to this spoof of Taylor Swift’s latest hit, “Shake it Off,” because even I could do this better.