“Comparison is a thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt
Apparently, the comparison steals joy. I would add: not just joy. Especially freelancers can literally knock you down compared to others. It can take away your motivation and totally discourage you from trying. Simple advice “Stop comparing yourself” but I don’t think it works.
Why? It is absolutely natural to compare ourselves to others and we all do it. I do it, you too. How can I be so sure? I got a little bit involved.
The natural need to compare ourselves
We have a need to compare ourselves to others for two reasons. People evaluate their opinions and abilities compared to others to:
- They have reduced their uncertainty (or strengthened their certainty) in the areas they compare
- they have learned how to define themselves (ie, confirm who they are), which they can only do by comparing them to others
This is the essence of social comparison theory, introduced in 1954 by social psychologist Leon Festinger. So we know that we have a need to compare ourselves. We also know that we compare ourselves more to people who are similar to us . And we know that we compare our abilities and opinions with the groups we consider important. For example, I will never compare myself to a judge of the Constitutional Court because he’s not a man of “my circles,” I don’t know much about law, and it’s not important to me.
Well, according to this theory, it seems at first sight that nothing is wrong with the comparison. So why do I feel so bad when comparing myself to a super successful blogger from Australia, which has over 300,000 readers? Why do I suddenly think: Well, girl, you will never get there… not with what you know, and not here in that little Czech pond. And why do I suddenly feel grumpy compared to my ex-work colleague?
Festinger explains that in comparing we can either overestimate or underestimate (or do both). And neither, of course, brings much good feelings inside ourselves, but neither towards the people we are confronted with. All of a sudden, the high-fashioned and combed colleague always finds me unbearable. I don’t know what it is, I can’t explain it. Perhaps the way he talks or walks or sipped coffee. Simply unbearable!; -); -)
Comparison is stupid
Just browse the web a little and you’ll find millions of reasons why such a comparison is bad:
- Comparing is always unfair. We usually compare the worst we know about ourselves with the best we perceive on others.
- Comparison by its very nature requires some metric. But not every good thing can be calculated and measured.
- The comparison robs us of precious time.
- We never compare fairly, for each of us is different and unique. Your talent, talent, success and value are just yours. They can never be compared to what others have.
- You can’t get anything by comparison, but you can lose a lot, such as your pride, honor, motivation, enthusiasm.
- The comparison directs attention to the wrong person. You can have only one life under control, and that of yours (not the person you are confronting).
- The result of comparison is often resistance – to others and to ourselves.
Comparing is stupid?
Now imagine that you have, say, a colleague with whom you are constantly confronting. She is successful, beautiful, has great presentation skills, arguments sprinkles off her sleeve. By comparing you will come to the conclusion that its qualities are far from being achieved, but that they are not quite an unrivaled goal for you. You sign up for a series of training sessions, read industry literature, and simply improve on all fronts. By comparing, you evaluated yourself, which helped you improve.
The comparison with others is not necessarily bad by its very nature. The sharp sting of envy can actually alert you to your inner desires . You can stretch part of your energy to improve your own life. But sometimes your envy is not a very helpful emotion and you really feel that you can never be equal to those around you. And you feel terrible. But then there is a way out.
Do you want to evaluate or improve on your own?
First of all, you have to realize that you’re comparing yourself. Once you understand this, try to answer for yourself what you want to achieve.
Effort to compare
You compare yourself to see how good you are.
You’re trying to make you feel better by comparing. In other words: you are not trying to get to know yourself by comparing, but to strengthen your own ego. This can cause a number of problems.
Tell me I am (who I already know I am)
But it’s all a little more complicated. When we compare to someone, we usually have some idea of who we are. And this means that we often compare ourselves with a certain idea in our minds.
We don’t behave like a blank blank sheet waiting for feedback so we can objectively write who we are. For we already know who we are – or rather we think we know – and then we compare ourselves with others in a way that helps us confirm our beliefs.
When we compare ourselves to others, we don’t really compare ourselves to them. We compare our ideas of ourselves with them – and then we use our observations about these other people to confirm our ideas.
In the world of social networking, this takes another dimension. And here it really is gaining momentum. I’m surprised we haven’t all gone crazy yet. Not only do we compare our idea of ourselves with Facebook on the other person, we compare our idea of ourselves with that of the other person we compare to. What are we going to talk about. Your ex-colleague may look fabulous in FB photos, is still surrounded by her smiling children, and is lovingly affecting her husband. In fact, however, she prepared 10 kg, she sees her husband every two weeks, and the younger son has just been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. But you will not know that and compare yourself to who she would like to be.
So if you feel terrible when compared to others …
Do I feel terrible because I evaluate my skills and opinions?
Do I feel terrible because I’m trying to improve my feelings about these abilities and opinions?
Do I feel terrible because I want to confirm my belief, which I already have | about my abilities and opinions?
If you feel terrible compared to others, it’s mainly for the reasons you do it for, and based on the ideas you want to create from it – and both
A quick tip to feel better when compared to others
- Try to realize when you’re starting to compare yourself to others.
- Then stop it.
- Start thinking of all the things and people you love, the things you do. Or focus on how you can improve.
- Do it so regularly.
But we will never cease comparing with others. Never quite. This instinct of constant self-esteem, the search for information about ourselves among others, is deeply rooted in ourselves as a human species.
Let me know how you feel when comparing. Because it is clear that you are still comparing yourself to someone. You just don’t know about it yet.