Happiness

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

HowToStopComparing

They say “comparison is the thief of joy.” Understatement of the century.

The modern version should read something like “Looking at pics of your ex-bestie’s engagement ring while stress-eating a pizza will only make you feel worse about your existence.” (Though perhaps that’s not as concise).

It’s no surprise that the more miles our thumbs scroll on Instagram, the shittier we feel. And yet, the moment we feel stressed, bored, or inebriated, we reach for our phone. And thus begins the vicious cycle.

So why do we do it and how do we stop? Read on:

Cara* is a 31-year-old, female who first came to me when she felt “lost” in her career and relationship. From the outside, most people would think she has the perfect life. She has close friends, a growing career in marketing, and a long-term boyfriend with whom she lives. She’s in great health, has no debt, and has a (surprisingly) healthy relationship with her parents (say what?!). Cara, however, didn’t see it that way. She felt like nothing was ever enough.

When friends would get married, coworkers would move on, and her sister had a baby, Cara judged herself as a loser, upset she hadn’t “achieved” the same milestones. She imagined others to be living a happy life, free of the self-doubt she plagued herself with daily. As a result, she didn’t take consistent action toward her goals (her juicer is still in the box, her resume is unwritten, and her running shoes have accumulated more dust bunnies than miles).

In one session, I asked whether she’d ever shared these feelings with her friends, to which she responded “of course not! They would never understand.” And when I asked if she ever posted a less-than-flattering selfie, she had a similar response. I pointed out that if she’s only portraying an idealized version of herself, the same might be true for others. Not sharing the whole picture not only isolates her, but her friends as well. Maybe they, too, share similar self-doubts. That night, she opened up to a friend who had similar feelings of self-judgment when she saw fitness “influencers” on Instagram. Cara and I spoke the next week and she reported feeling closer to her friend and more hopeful about her future.

1. Facts are facts. Thoughts aren’t feelings. Our behaviors are irrational.

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Okay, that’s a lot to throw at you. Let’s break it down.

In my work with Cara, we addressed her need to compare herself to others with a 3-prong approach to address: 1) thoughts; 2) feelings; and 3) behaviors.

When something good happens to someone else, we have a difficult time separating facts from thoughts and thoughts from feelings. A fact doesn’t have the power to make us feel badly. It’s the conclusions we draw from them that have the potential to harm us. For example, a coworker getting a raise is a fact. “She doesn’t deserve a raise” or “I should have been promoted” is a thought, not a fact. “I’m a loser” is a feeling, not a fact. “I’m going to re-watch Gossip Girl tonight instead of looking for a job that excites me” is a (totally relatable) behavior.

While people often tell us to remember that there are others who are less fortunate or urge us to compare ourselves to those who we may perceive as “lesser” than us, this negative comparison doesn’t change our beliefs or behaviors. In fact, it’s equally as damaging, keeping us in the competitive mindset of constantly comparing ourselves to others.

Try it: When you notice you’re comparing yourself to others, identify the differences between facts, thoughts and feelings. Have a hard time noticing? Take stock when you use words like “I should…” (I should be married by now); “I wish…(I wish I were thinner); and words that end in –er (She is prettier than I am.) Separating your thoughts from your feelings will allow you to choose behaviors with more awareness, resulting in a better outcome, mood, and mindset.

2. Our outsides don’t always match our insides.

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For the past 1.5 years, I’ve been providing therapy to at-risk teenage girls. Needless to say, self-esteem is a recurring theme. One of my favorite tools came from an art therapist I worked with. Seeing its success, I decided to try it with Cara. In session, she decorated the outside of a shoebox with images and words that portray how others see her. She used words like “fierce” with images of adventure and Michelle Obama. On the inside of the box, she conveyed how she sees herself. The imagery was completely different. She depicted a small girl surrounded with the words “stuck” and “alone.” When she finished, we noted that her closest loved ones would be surprised to see the inside of the box, not recognizing this as the Cara they know. She acknowledged that when we compare ourselves to others, we only see the outside of their box. As a result, we base our comparisons and resulting beliefs on half-truths without the whole story.

Try it: While I get that crafting out your feelings might not be for everyone, I highly recommend trying this for yourself. Play some calming music, grab a few old magazines and use this self-care activity to create more connection with yourself and others. Not for you? Challenge yourself by sharing an “in the box” memory or feeling with someone close to you. Remember, vulnerability creates connection.

3. Fill your life with purpose and passion.

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As vomitous and pinteresty as that statement may be, it’s true. When you’re doing things you love, you stop noticing what everyone else is doing. And because you’re focused on yourself, when you do notice, you care less.

Try it: Take a class. Try a new hobby. Get back in touch with the things you did before social media existed (assuming you’re as old as I am!) Personally, I started using Goodreads and am back to reading for pleasure. I’m also finishing a course in trauma-informed yoga. Bonus: It’s amazing how much sleep you get when you’re not reading the entire Internet before bed each night!

The Takeaway:

So instead of comparing your body, bank account, or boyfriend, focus on changing your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Recognize that comparisons aren’t based on the whole picture. And lastly, go out and live your life. It doesn’t have to be Instagramable to be worthy of your time and energy.

Speaking of which…while you’re at it, maybe cool it on the social media for a while :)

*Name and identifying information has been changed

Good News: There's Only 1 Thing Standing Between You and Your Best Life

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Bad News: It's You.

Better News: It doesn't have to be!

Here’s a secret most coaches and therapists won’t admit: We know within the first 10 minutes of meeting you whether you’ll achieve your goals. What?! How's that possible?!

While I can’t see the future, I do see the same 5 challenges hold people back from achieving their full potential. Not surprisingly, there are 5 traits that propel people forward. Coincidence? I think not.

Whether in our personal or professional lives, we've all been guilty of self-sabotage (myself included!) Thankfully, you can spot and stop the obstacles getting in your way, replacing them with behaviors that serve you instead:

Obstacle #1: You don’t accept responsibility for EVERYTHING.

Whether it's other people, the past, or the outcome of the presidential election, there are many things we can't control. There are times when life simply sucks. And when that happens, those who bounce back focus on opportunity instead of blame. They don’t wait for an answer or apology because they know that solving any situation requires owning it in its entirely. Bluntly put, if you feel shitty, it’s YOUR problem, not theirs. The good news is that the fix is also up to you. Whether it’s stating your truth, leaving, getting help, or anything else, you’re in charge of how you feel. This is by far the most challenging obstacle on the list. But once you’ve mastered it, it’ll lead to the biggest results. 

Shift It: Accept that no matter your situation, change is up to you.

Obstacle #2: Your thoughts and actions bring you down.

For any outcome, there’s a specific way of thinking and acting that will get you what you want. Your current situation is the result of your current actions and beliefs. To create a new outcome, you need to identify the thoughts and actions of those who have what you want and then adopt them. For someone who's in debt, she might ask herself "what do financially savvy people do?" As challenging as it might be, she might start tracking her expenses, going to Debtor's Anonymous meetings, etc.  It might feel foreign at first, but soon these new actions will create new thought patterns (and lead to new results!) Over time, you’ll transform your beliefs into ones that serve you and release the ones that previously held you back.

Shift It: As they say, “fake it til you make it.”

Obstacle #3: You want the new without giving up the old.

There’s always a price to pay to achieve what you want. New results come from new actions. If you want to run a marathon, but you don’t want to get off the couch, don’t be surprised when things don’t go as planned. This doesn’t mean change has to be filled with pain, the truly successful view paying the price as a positive instead of a negative. They focus on the joy of what they’re doing, rather than the pain of what they’re giving up.

Shift It: To view new steps more positively, focus on the pleasure of achieving your goal rather than the pain of change. Simply put, look at what you’re adding instead of what you’re giving up. 

Obstacle #4: You imagine the worst-case scenario…and unknowingly create it.

Whether or not you believe in manifesting, vision boards, or the law of attraction, one thing is always true: What you think is what you see. For example, I have a good friend who wants to be in a loving relationship. But, since she’s convinced that “all the good ones are taken,” she doesn’t put herself out there. She won’t go on a dating site and thinks that any guy who comes up to her must be “a loser.” Not surprisingly, her fear of being alone forever ensures that she will be.

Shift It: Focus on what you want, not what you want to avoid. This subtle difference creates massive change.

Obstacle #5: You buy your own bullshit.

Harsh, but true. “Reasons” are just excuses that we’ve bought into. When people tell me they “don’t have enough time” to meditate/exercise/respond to emails, I often wonder how they still have time to stalk their ex on Facebook. If you truly want to achieve your goal, you’ll trade your rationalizing for resourcefulness.

Shift It: Prioritize your goal by creating more time and questioning why you haven’t achieved it thus far.

The Takeaway:

Don’t blame your friends, finances, or fiancé- You are your biggest obstacle. And that's a good thing! Because changing your mindset is within your control. Remember, you have everything you need to succeed, you simply need to get out of your own way.

Interested in 1-on-1 support? Click here.

3 Steps To Improve Your Emotional Resilience Now

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When I was 11 years old, I was obsessed with the Super Nintendo video game “Donkey Kong Country.” I was so into it that I ordered an over-sized DK T-shirt off the back of my cereal box that said “Tame The Beast.” After waiting the requisite & agonizingly long 6-8 weeks for it to arrive, I wore it for an entire summer. And since I just found it in, you can be sure it will make an appearance again soon.

Finding this T-shirt made me realize a few things:

  • I need to go through my closet more often
  • I still don’t have the patience to wait 6-8 weeks for something I want.
  • I need the fun distractions of childhood to help me cope with all the devastating news in the world right now. Something like a video game that caters to my adult interests.

Being the nerd that I am, it only took a quick Google to find the work of Dr. Jane McGonigal, author of the upcoming book “Superbetter.” And with all tragedies going on in the world right now, it seemed like perfect synchronicity that I would find her work on resilience. 

Check out her gamified quiz to determine whether you have enough positivity in your life (and how you can increase it!):

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The 3 Steps To Calculate Your Positive Emotion Ratio:

  1. Look over the emotional states listed in the diagram (right) and note how many from each box you’ve felt in the last 24 hours. If you’ve felt any of these VERY strongly or for more than a fleeting moment, count it twice.
  2. You should now have one number tallying positive emotions (PE) and one number tallying negative emotions (NE).
  3. Divide your PE by your NE to determine your Positive Emotion Ratio. For example, if you checked off 12 for your PE and 6 for your NE, 12/6=2.

Analyze your score:

  • If your score is higher than a 3, Awesome! Keep up the good work and amp up the self-care when you hit a rough patch.
  • If your score is 1-3, Try the activities below and address lifestyle issues.
  • If your score is lower than a 1, Try the activities below, increase social connection, and seek help if needed.

According to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a professor of Psychology at UNC Chapel Hill, your Positive Emotion Ratio is a good gauge of your resilience in times of stress. In other words, the more positive emotions you have on a daily basis, the more likely you are to bounce back when shit hits the fan.

And that brings us to the million dollar question...

How do you boost your score?

Dr. McGonigal suggests creating a power-up. For those of you who didn’t have a Donkey Kong addiction as a kid, these are the bonus items you collect that make you stronger. Engage in activities that create moments of happiness, strength, courage, and connection.

To increase your resilience, do 3 or more daily:

  • Go outside (don't worry, Netflix pauses)
  • Engage in physical activity
  • Call a friend
  • Watch a funny video
  • Name one accomplishment you're proud of
  • Sing (bonus points if you use a hairbrush or kitchen implement as a mic)
  • Write a letter of gratitude
  • Close your eyes and think back to a time when you felt happy & strong
  • Help someone
  • And as always, seek professional help if needed. 

What do you do to give your life a "power-up?"
Send me a message, I'd love to share your story with the community!