Ahhhhhhhh comparison. So much like fire. It can be used as fuel . . .
or it can destroy.
That sounds ridiculously dramatic, I know. But that doesn't negate the accuracy of the description. Just ask the worn out working mama, trying to hold "all the things" together, who just had a melt down in her car at the school pick up line.
Before we jump right into tools for battling "toxic comparison", let me give you a brief contrast between toxic comparison and its happier counterpart "healthy comparison".
Healthy comparison is fueled by a desire to improve.
When individuals compare themselves to others as a way of measuring their own personal development and growth or to motivate themselves to improve and develop a more positive self-image, comparisons can be helpful. Healthy.
Toxic comparison is fueled by insecurities and fear.
When individuals compare themselves to others and it’s fueled by insecurities or negative self-thoughts, and it ultimately causes harm mentally, spiritually, or emotionally then this type of comparison is toxic. This is the comparison we want to do our best to avoid.
Here's what helps me to be able to quickly tell the difference:
If something or someone leaves me feeling inspired and excited to be a better version of myself. - Healthy Comparison
When I come away motivated to be the best possible me I can be. - Healthy Comparison
If something or someone leaves me feeling ashamed or bitter about who and where I am in life. - Toxic Comparison
If i'm watching something, or scrolling, or reading through something, and I have feelings that i'm not enough, or I have that "icky" feeling. - Toxic Comparison
One gives energy. One steals it.
Here is a list of tools that can help
battle "Toxic Comparison".
(Not all of these will resonate with you. Try to find one of two that you can practice regularly.)
1. Become aware.
Remember when your friend decided to buy a blue jeep. And now everywhere you go you see a blue jeep? Well the same thing happens when we bring our awareness to habits.
Most often we compare without even realizing we are doing it. So the best first step is to start by being on the lookout for them. If you focus on spotting these negative thoughts for a week or so, with practice it’ll be hard not to notice when you are comparing.
2. Learn to pause.
Once you realize you’re having these toxic comparison thoughts, give yourself a pause. Breathe. Don’t belittle yourself or make yourself feel worse...just acknowledge the thought, pop it like a bubble, and then gently change focus.
3. Take note of the similarities.
Not all comparison is bad. Try focusing on a similarity instead of a difference. Is there something good that you are doing that you can measure to help yourself improve?
4. Practice gratitude.
Both for yourself and the other person, place, or thing that you are comparing to. A deep breath and a moment of gratitude is often enough to make the shift. I believe its impossible to practice toxic comparison and gratitude simultaneously.
5. If you are bleeding, stay out of the water.
So we all know that someone who is injured should stay out of shark infested waters. The same goes for you and comparison. Be aware of your trigger situations.
· For some, it’s a trip to the gym. If you’re self-conscious of your body, watching fit people walk around like 1980's exotic dancers, in their tightest fitting gym clothes likely has you over analyzing your every body part. Find a new gym or go virtual.
· For some it might be Instagram accounts. If you are not in a great place with your current home, following decorating accounts may leave you feeling worse. Unfollow those accounts.
· It might even be hanging out with a set of friends. If you are currently having issues in your marriage, being around healthy couples can be salt in the wound for some. Take a break for a while, and work hard on your own relationship, until its no longer an issue. This is not a permanent solution, but it can help you regain focus.
6. Focus on your strengths.
Instead of looking at your weaknesses, ask yourself what your strengths are. Celebrate them and be proud of them. You don’t need to brag in order to have pride, so feel good about them and work on using them to your best advantage.
7. Create a mantra. And Breathe.
Mantras are a wonderful way to redirect focus. And pairing it with deep breathing exercises gives added fuel. So the next time you feel the triggers of comparison have a mantra prepared.
A couple of my "go to" mantras:
"Thank you Lord for the path i'm on."
"Enjoy the journey, life is short."
8. Remove “should” from your vocabulary.
Nothing good comes from ”should of”. It’s a word full of regret.
So start paying attention to it. Ask your spouse or friend to catch you saying it. See it as a trigger. When you hear yourself say SHOULD, pause, and then think about what it is your wanting to do different. And then let yourself off the hook. Instead of using “should” when expressing commitments, use “want” and notice how your though shifts.
EX. Dangit. I should of worked out after dinner. (Negative neural feedback)
I really want to work out regularly after dinner instead of watching TV. (You just gave your neurotransmitters a scooby snack sister.)
Quit shoulding yerself. It's never a fun mess to clean up.
9. Love your story. All of it.
Look, your life may have been a hot mess up until now. It may be marked by mistakes, anxiety, hurts, fear, and regrets. My life was so broken and messy you needed gloves to get near it without getting injured. But all those things were catalysts to help me become a better, wiser, and more courageous version of myself. Quit hiding who you are. You are enough my friend. Embrace your amazing, crazy, messy story and where you are now. Be proud of what you’ve done and for wanting to become a better you.
10. Do a social media cleanse.
Social media can be a great source for inspiration and energy. But, if it triggers unworthy feelings, self-doubt, and anxiety, then choose to do a nice healthy cleanse. Make sure you controling your social media life and not the other way around.
Unfollow any accounts that trigger your toxic comparison feelings. And remember . . .
“Don’t compare you beginning to someone else’s middle.” -Jon Acuff
11. Make a new friend.
If there is someone you don’t know well but you can tell feel the tell tale signs of comparison or envy coming along . . . be intentional about getting to know the person better. Often when we truly get to know someones story, we are less likely to compare our journeys.
12. Compare yourself with you.
When you find yourself in the comparison trap, think about where you were 5 years ago. Ten years ago? How have you improved? Say it out loud. Write it down.
Then you can decide on areas you would like to grow more. But only after you have acknowledged the growth you have already achieved.
13. Become the you, you want to be.
Ok here is where I give you an imaginary kick in the britches. If you don't like who you are, if you don't like your story, change it! Write a better story. One filled with courage and strength, joy and adventure. Instead of telling yourself what you can't do, tell yourself what you can. And then be brave enough to try something new. You can do this friend.
14. Make a move forward. Start taking notice of what it is you are comparing to. Are there any consistencies? Think of one small, practical thing you can do to take action and move forward in the area you are comparing. Whatever area it is. Baby steps.
15. Contact a professional:
Friends, we were not made to do life alone. Sometimes we just need help.
Comparisons can go hand and hand with depression and anxiety. If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of comparison and using it to fuel negative thoughts and feelings, that are becoming more and more harmgful, get help. I encourage you to work with a professional counselor. This is not not a shameful choice. It's a BRAVE choice.
Well there ya have it. I know that's a lot to take in but I truly hope you found at least one little nugget here that you can add to your tool box for those times when toxic comparison creeps in. And if you have some tactics that work for you, or encouragement that you would like to share, please leave a comment. We always love support. Communitie are stronger and can do more when we build one another up. -BB