“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.” Lao Tzu
Modern science agrees. Sonja Lyubomirski, a leading happiness researcher, explains in her book The How of Happiness, “People who pay too much attention to social comparisons find themselves chronically vulnerable, threatened, and insecure.” And: “The happier the person, the less attention she pays to how others around her are doing.”
So what can you do? How can you stop comparing yourself to other people? Well, today I want to share with you 4 ideas that have helped me deal with this common issue. Hopefully, some of the ideas will benefit you as well.
“Do not be jealous of others’ good qualities, but out of admiration adopt them yourself.” Buddha
Oftentimes we seem to forget that we are all interconnected. We are part of one family, one city, one country, one humanity, one earth, one cosmos. We are not separate entities. Rather, we are all connected with one another and influence each other.
David Hawkins, the great spiritual teacher, put it this way, “In this interconnected universe, every improvement we make in our private world improves the world at large for everyone. We all float on the collective level of consciousness of mankind so that any increment we add comes back to us. We all add to our common buoyancy by our efforts to benefit life. It is a scientific fact that what is good for you is good for me.”
What is good for you is good for me.
Because, ultimately, we are one. If I win, you win. If the community is better off, so are you. If someone else achieves a lot in life, don’t envy him, be thankful to him. He’s making the pie bigger not only for himself but for everyone else, including you and me.
2. Realize You’re Not a Coconut Tree
Comparing yourself to others will turn you into a kind of cripple. Sadhguru, the Indian guru and mystic, tells a great story to illustrate this point, “If you look at a mango tree and a coconut tree, and your idea of being better is being tall, then what you will do with the mango tree is you chop off all the branches except the highest one, hoping that it will grow. It is never going to be a coconut tree – it is only going to be a crippled mango tree. This is what has happened to most human beings. They have become crippled because they are trying to be better than someone else.”
What does he mean?
If you are being envied of someone else it’s only because you’re completely ignorant of the fact that you are not a coconut tree. You are an inimitable expression of life, God, existence, the Divine or whatever you want to call it.
You are unique – literally incomparable to anything or anyone else.
Imitation is suicide.
Because by trying to imitate somebody else, you might kill the best within you. You are not supposed to be a lesser, second-best version of Buddha, Michael Jordan, Oprah, Steve Jobs, Jesus Christ, or anyone else. You are your own unique self. Stop comparing yourself to others, and start expressing your own nature. The next idea will help with that.
3. Follow A New Definition of Success
Instead of comparing yourself to other people, start comparing yourself to yourself.
Are you doing everything you can to become the greatest version of yourself?
Are you doing your best? Because that’s the only thing under your control.
John Wooden, sometimes called the most successful basketball coach *ever*, explains it well, “Some of us are shorter or taller, quicker or slower, smarter or otherwise. Situations vary. Some people have more opportunities, some less. We are not the same in all these things, but we are all the same in having the opportunity to make the most of what we have, whatever our situation. The ultimate challenge for you is to make the attempt to improve fully and be your best in the existing condition.”
You may be smaller, weaker, slower, and dumber than other people. In fact, you certainly are. But don’t worry about that. It’s outside of your control. Instead, worry about becoming your best under your given circumstances.
Follow a new definition of success. If you’re doing the best you can in the existing condition, then you’re a winner. Who cares if others make more money, achieve greater things, drive nicer cars, or live in a bigger house. If you do everything you can to become the greatest version of yourself, then you’ve succeeded. What else can you do? From now on, use that definition of success.
4. Use Your Willpower
Science tells us that the mind can’t focus on two things simultaneously. You can’t be envious and happy at the same time. You can’t be comparing yourself to other people and be grateful at the same time.
That’s great news. Because it means you have the power to stop comparing yourself to other people. You just need to use your willpower.
Here’s how it works: Next time you catch yourself in a moment of comparison, simply use your self-control and change the focus. Ask yourself, what you’re grateful for in that moment. Or remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments in the past. Or simply stay present to the moment and mindfully watch your breath.
The point is, you need to first catch yourself when engaging in social comparisons, and then you need to put your focus on something else. This will require a lot of willpower, but that’s what we have it for, right?
And there you have it. Four ideas that help me combat this negative habit.
Which idea did you like the most? Let me know in the comment section below.