Miscellaneous

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

The 5 Obstacles Standing Between You & What You Want

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.

5 Steps To Turn Your Resolution Into Reality

Today, we’re getting down to business.

Fair warning: If you want me to validate that you can keep doing the same thing and that 2017 will magically bring you new results due to some cosmic alignment finally working out in your favor, this is not the post for you.

If, however, you really want to make a change and are willing to risk trying something new, then I urge you to read on.

But first, if you haven’t checked out Part 1 of this 2 Part Series on New Year’s Resolutions, I highly recommend you stop and read “How To Reflect & Select Your New Year’s Resolution.” Not only because Part 1 comes before Part 2 (duh!), but also because the warm, fuzzy, spiritual, half of me wrote that post and she is notably absent from this post. Why?

Because today, we’re turning all your introspective work from last week into an actionable, tangible, goal for 2017 that you can (and will!) achieve. I tested out this exact methodology on myself and of the 10 outcomes I wanted to achieve in 2016, I accomplished 9. Not too shabby! So, let’s jump in:

Ever wonder why most New Year’s resolutions fall apart in the first 3 weeks? No, it’s not your willpower or because “life got in the way,” it’s because a vague goal leads to vague actions which leads to…you guessed it: vague results! We avoid setting real goals and instead make resolutions like, “I want to get healthy” so we don't have to be held accountable to what we truly want. Sounds harsh, but it's true. And trust me, I get how terrifying it is! An undefined intention means we don’t have to feel like a failure when it doesn’t happen. And while it keeps us safe, it also keeps us stuck.

If you’ve typically set resolutions that are dreams and not goals, you’re not alone. I see this with my clients all the time. A busy mom recently told me her goal is "to create more work-life balance.” And while that sounds great, it isn’t clear what actions she'll take or how she’ll even know when she achieves it. You may have heard of SMART goals before (the acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound), but chances are that if you’re creating resolutions or setting goals, they aren’t hitting each point.

Here’s how to define your goal and make it happen:

(BTW, I’ve included a worksheet you can use to implement the steps I outline below. Bonus: It includes my go-to strategy to maintain motivation when the couch calls my name. Download it here.)

1. Select the Specific thing you want to achieve.

Your goal should clearly define what you’re going to do. It should outline what you’ll achieve and how you'll get there. Be sure to include the exact steps you’ll take.

Example. Instead of “I want more work-life balance,” try “I will take daily action to create more balance by prioritizing self-care in the form of: Meditating for 10 min each day, action #2, action #3, etc.”

2. Make it Measurable.

Here’s where most people get tripped up. Not only does your overall goal need to be quantified, but so does each action step. This will help you to take feasible steps, maintain motivation, build momentum, and tell you exactly how much progress you’ve made toward your goal. 

To make actions measurable, be precise:

Example. Instead of saying “I’ll leave work at work,” try “On weekdays, I won’t check my email past 8 pm. On weekends, I will only check it once per day.”

To make your overall goal measurable, define your starting point:

Measure how many actions you currently take toward your goal and compare it to the number of actions at the end of your goal. Or, rate your ability/level of success on a scale of 1-10 now and at the end of your goal.

Example. If you exercise once per week, instead of saying “I’ll work out more,” try “I will go to the gym 3 times per week for 45-60 minutes.”

3. You only Attain what you act on.

An attainable goal is not dependent on others, your circumstances, or winning the lottery. In our work-life balance example, a poor indicator of success would be the amount of work assigned to you. While that relates to your goal, you can’t control what your boss tells you to do. You can, however, change how you respond.

Example. “When I’m assigned a new task at work, I will communicate with my boss about due dates, project priorities, what’s currently on my plate, and what can be delegated.”

Goals should be achievable. They should stretch you slightly so you feel challenged, but still be within your grasp. A common mistake I see clients make is trying to break goals into smaller pieces in an effort to make them more attainable. This is a slippery slope. For example, while saying you want to lose 5 lbs in 1 month is more realistic than losing 10 lbs., you can’t control your metabolism. Instead, focus on the action steps that promote you achieving your goal.

Example. “I will take daily action to increase my self-care by drinking 8 glasses of water each day, action #2, action #3, etc.”

The goal is not about the outcome, it’s about your ability to take consistent action toward that outcome.

4. Relevant, not random.

EVERY action step needs to be directly related to your goal. Don’t throw random “nice-to-haves” in there. For example, I had a client whose goal was centered around finding a new job. In her inspired and motivated goal-setting state, she wanted to add an action step of 20 minutes of yoga per day. While some may argue that yoga is great for everything, it’s not directly related and, thus, doesn’t belong in her goal. When selecting relevant action steps, ask yourself, “does this action directly impact my ability to achieve this goal?” If it doesn’t get you closer to your goal, don’t include it.

5. Time-Bound = Success-Bound.

It doesn’t matter whether you love or hate due dates, your goal still needs one. Pick a date that’s far enough that you’ll see results, but close enough that you can maintain motivation to achieve it. Linking your goal to a timeframe creates a practical sense of urgency and creates a healthy discomfort between where you are and where you’d like to be. My advice? Choose a date that’s 1, 2, or 3 months from now. It’s long enough that you can see a change, short enough to be relevant, and will allow you to fine-tune your actions should you continue for the rest of the year.

The Takeaway:

Use these steps (and bonus worksheet) to ensure you get results. Or, you can have the same new year’s resolution next year. The choice is yours.

Here’s to a bigger, better, and brighter 2017!

To learn more about virtual coaching or one-on-one support with your goal, click here.