A Coaching Power Tool By Aleksandra Kowalska, Business Coach, SPAIN
Comparison is a thief of Joy. Theodore Roosevelt
It’s normal to wonder how we measure up to other people. According to social comparison theory, this drive is part of our basic desire to understand ourselves and our place in the social world. But dwelling too much on these judgments has a cost. Juliana Breines, Ph.D.Psychology Today
The Difference Between Comparison vs. Confidence
The Comparison Trap
You know those people who have more than you—money, acclaim, looks, whatever? The spike of envy they trigger is natural, and social media is primed to amp it up. But in a world where followers and likes can seem like rock-solid proof of a person’s worth, you don’t have to take the bait.
Compare and Despair
Imagine yourself on a sunny day, on the beach, strolling, life is good, you are relaxed, happy, you feel good about yourself, your body satisfaction is a solid 8. Now, you see two models walking in the opposite direction towards you. Your body satisfaction plummeted to 2. What happened? The models existed before you saw them, you were just not aware of them. You use them to create the whole set of negative, critical thoughts about yourself.
What made you compare and despair? Why is this a problem? What can you do about it?
We use comparison to criticize ourselves and find ourselves wanting and lacking.
Sometimes we compare downward to someone we consider worse than us a sense of self-validation by putting the person down in our mind but it is a part of the same problem because if we criticize ourselves when compare to others, we feel that the only way to feel better is to compare ourselves to someone worse.
According to Juliana Breines from Psychology Today, US research suggests that we’re more likely to make downward comparisons when our self-esteem is threatened—for example, if we’ve just received negative feedback—because these comparisons give us a boost, enhance our own perceived standing, and reassure us that things could be worse.
On the surface, downward comparisons may seem harmless, even healthy, but they have several drawbacks. First, to the extent that these comparisons form a basis for self-esteem, it’s a fragile one because they depend on the continued misfortune of others. Downward comparison can also put a strain on our relationships. When we focus too narrowly on others’ negative attributes, we may miss the complete picture of their strengths and successes, which limits our ability to empathize and support them in good and bad times.
All in all, constant comparing has a bad effect on our mental state.
The solution is the understanding of why do we compare ourselves constantly, what happens to our brain when we do this and what we can do to change it.
First of all, we live in a capitalized society where we are encouraged to see competition as healthy and normal. The problem with the competition is that we are constantly comparing ourselves with others to see where we stand. It can be quite easy to spot the winner when you run a 10K race, however, when it comes to all nebulous aspects of our modern life there may be no clear winner or loser and yet we absorb the ideology that there are winners and losers everywhere. The brain tries to figure out where we are on the spectrum by comparing ourselves to others all the time. What is more, the brain is taught to give importance and weight to these differences.
Capitalism also teaches us to treat ourselves as a commodity. We are used to thinking about ourselves in the series of marketplaces, where you can be looked at as in the market and compared with others, as a result, we end up seeing ourselves as a series of attributes that can be of value to others.
The comparison itself is not that bad but what makes it harmful is that we have within us an existing belief system about our own lack of worth. We already believe that we are inadequate and the brain is just looking out for evidence to support what it already believes. When we compare ourselves to others we just ASSUME they are better and it affects our happiness. Consequently, we think that because somebody seems to be prettier, have more money than us, they are happier. We look at them and we would rather be them because we think that it would make us happier.
However, external circumstances do not cause our feelings.
Our thoughts determine our happiness.
How can you change your thoughts to be happier?
What kind of mindset can eliminate such comparison and bring peace, acceptance, and happiness.
True self-awareness and self-confidence don’t come overnight. Being self-aware means that you know yourself and that you’re aware of all your strengths and weaknesses. It means you will be able to trust in your abilities and qualities and to stand by yourself despite your perfectly imperfect personality.
Real Self-Confidence Is Built Through Positive Experiences
Genuine self-confidence results from a series of positive experiences which lead us to the realization of who we are. This means that we are more ourselves than the copy of a so-called role model.
You will recognize the difference between genuine, authentic self-confidence and a mere mask as soon as the first uncomfortable or difficult situation arises. Because then this mask will fall very fast.
Let’s Take a Closer Look at the Various Terms That Are Usually Used in This Context:
Self-awareness means knowing as much as possible about yourself and being aware. Someone who is self-aware knows their strengths, abilities, and quirks.
Self-esteem means recognizing one’s value. Although nobody is perfect, everyone has valuable qualities and strengths. Everybody is a unique perfectly imperfect personality.
Self-acceptance means to accept and love oneself with all the strengths and weaknesses we have.
It’s the awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses, the realistic (yet subjective) appraisal of one’s talents, capabilities, and general worth, and, feelings of satisfaction with one’s self despite deficiencies and regardless of past behaviors and choices. From these abilities real self-confidence arises. It is the ability to trust yourself and to perform safely even in difficult situations.
Let’s Be Honest. We All Know These Situations Where We Could Use a Real Confidence Boost:
- Maybe you sometimes perceive others’ traits and gifts as being superior to your own — even “heroic,” and therefore unattainable?
- Maybe you believe that no one cares what you think, how you feel, or even what you have to offer?
- Or do you have difficulties getting motivated and taking action? “I’m going to fail anyway, so why bother?”
- Or maybe you’re a “people pleaser” who’s not able to say “no”, have problems representing your interests, and find it hard to forgive yourself?
Some Questions That Can Help the Client to Move From Self-Criticism to Self-Awareness and Acceptance:
- What would be different if you didn´t compare yourself?
- What makes you believe the negative thoughts when you compare yourself with others?
- What makes you value others more than yourself?
- What could you be missing here?
- What makes you – you?
- If you were to let go of X belief/comparing, what might be possible?
- What new perspectives could you explore/stand-in/engage in?
- How will you amplify your core value of X today?
- Which values can you draw on as you meet this challenge?
- Who are you when you give yourself full permission?
- What inner critic messages are you listening to and letting hold you small?
- What does your inner sage know to be true?
- What would be different if you chose to listen to/believe/honor your inner sage?
- If you absolutely believed that all of life was organized around your success, what would your decision/action be?
- Where do you hesitate?
- What strengths can you draw on?
- What is it to have a growth mindset?
- What can you trust about yourself (regardless of external praise)?
- How would you grow if this succeeded?
Other Tools and Practices:
- If you want to boost your self-esteem, it’s a good idea to keep a regular diary: Focus on your daily successes and the positive things in life and record them
- You can keep a gratitude journal to focus on the positive things that happen to you daily
- Use a thought questioning tool “The Work” by Byron Katie, The Work of Byron Katie
- Use Socratic Questions to challenge the client´s perspective Socratic Questioning in Psychology: Examples and Techniques (positivepsychology.com)