How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Several weeks ago, I went on what I’ll call a social media cleansing. Though I typically go through my friends list on an annual basis to unfollow and delete, this time my method was a bit different. I didn’t do my usual, “Do I still talk to them? Do I even know them??” questioning. Instead, I just did a blanket unfollow for everyone.

You read absolutely right.

With the exception of my husband, a few family members, and a very valuable business group, I follow absolutely no one on Facebook. Likewise, with the exception of 8 people, I’ve also unfollowed everyone on my business’ Instagram account-- which, ironically, is the account that I log into the most.

If ever there were a prize for the lamest timeline, I’d definitely be the winner.

The idea of unfollowing (and possibly unfriending) everyone on my social media actually stemmed from someone I (used to) follow. She posted that she had decided to unfollow everyone on her social media in an effort to have less distractions and be more productive. Though I thought it was a bit extreme, it did cause me to examine exactly how much time I was wasting on social media. It didn’t take long to realize that her theory was correct.

I had previously tried the option of just completely deleting the apps and even putting it in the most inconvenient tab of my phone, but this method proved to be a lot more successful. I’ve learned that the best way to change a behavior is to adapt it to your lifestyle. For instance, if you’re trying to lose weight, it is much more sustainable and effective to change your portion size as opposed to completely changing your food cold turkey. No pun intended.

Likewise, if my habit and nature is to log on to my social media account, then I adapt the change to my lifestyle by making the app completely bare when I log in. It doesn’t impact my lifestyle, but I does create the change that I was seeking.

So, I began unfollowing people on Facebook first. My method was quite simple. As posts would appear on my timeline, I’d simply unfollow that person. Eventually, it got to the point where Facebook just said, “There are no more posts to show….go do something productive.”

Ok, maybe that last part wasn’t there, but they basically told me that there was nothing to see, so I needed to move on.

[Sidebar-- this whole exercise showed exactly how small of a percentage of your friend’s posts you actually see on Facebook anyway. I believe that the quoted number is around 2%. In Facebook’s effort to show my something...anything for goodness sake, I began seeing posts from people that I haven’t seen in years! I’m talking people that I didn’t even know I was friends with kind of reaching.]

For a while, I just kept it at that. I had absolutely nothing to do on Facebook but interact with my private Facebook communities. Apart from that, I just logged off.

The problem was, once I logged off of Facebook, I habitually logged into Instagram. Though I wasn’t nearly as active as I had previously been, I was still being sucked in by the stories and, now, IGTV. If Facebook couldn’t have me through their namesake site, they sure as heck had me caught up on their stepchild. I’d find myself spending way too much time being interested in what other people were doing with their lives. Meanwhile, there was definitely stuff that needed to be done in my own. Namely, work!

I kept up this dead end relationship for a few more weeks until I realized that I was in a trap. I wasn’t just caught in the trap of unproductivity and mindless scrolling, but I found myself in an even worse compromise: comparison.

Before I knew it, I found myself on my couch crying to my husband about how inadequate I felt.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Well, that escalated quickly!” 

So, let me backup and actually tell you how I got there...

...the backstory

So the mindless scrolling that I was doing on Instagram actually wasn’t so mindless. In fact, it was very strategic. You see, at most, there were only about 3-4 profiles that I truly followed on Instagram. They were the profiles of women who were absolutely killing it in businesses very similar to my own.

Therein lies the problem.

The pictures that they were posting were more than pictures or quick 30 second stories to me. They were the litmus test of my performance as an entrepreneur.

Does my graphic look this good?
Does my copy sound as convincing?
I wonder how many people they got to sign up for their launch?

For me, Instagram was less about entertainment and more about research. It was the laboratory in which I determined what I was doing wrong compared to others and a reality check of how far I still had to go. Oh, and there was the hope that occasionally these women would drop some kind of secret formula to their success as online entrepreneurs. For someone who hated labs in school, this was one that I’d show up to every single day.

I was obsessed! I was literally obsessed with comparing my now to someone else’s 6 years of work.

The problem was...I couldn’t stop.

Before long, I found myself pouring in hours of tweeking and thinking and comparing and trying to figure out what I was doing wrong and why I wasn’t seeing the same success.

As an outsider looking in, I imagine that you’re probably shaking your head in disbelief.
...or maybe you’re not, because you can relate. Afterall, you did click to read a blog post on how to stop comparing.

The irony of it all? I addressed this topic in a eerily similar situation years ago on my first blog. The blog, entitled “Window Shopping,” was a take on how we tend to compare our lives to the small portion of what we see of someone else’s. All the while, we have no clue what journey got them to where they are nor are we equipped (or even want) to endure what they had to endure to get there.

Now 5 years later, I found myself in the same place.

So after shedding some tears to an unsuspecting husband and moping around for a few days, I knew what I had to do. It was the one thing that I had been avoiding the whole time.

I had to hang up my lab coat, lock the door, and toss the key.

I started unfollowing everyone on my Instagram, leaving a lone 12 people whose posts were either inspirational or with whom I’d built an offline relationship with through the platform.

*sigh of relief*

Despite the fact that this felt like a huge victory and relief, I knew that my problem wasn’t solved. If this thing reared itself up 5 years after I thought I had it figured out, I knew I had more work to do. Instagram was just the trigger, not the root.

So I did like I always do…I started reading and researching until I found something that absolutely made sense. I needed to understand the root of comparison in order to uproot it the right way. Here’s what I learned about comparison.

We compare because we’re taught to. 

As a former pageant titleholder, I know this all too well. Since birth, we’ve been measured to a standard that we have no control over. Before you can even talk, doctors have put you in some percentile compared to other babies your age. The comparison continues into your youth as you’re judged on how pretty you are, how many friends you have, the clothes you wear, how smart you are...the list goes on an on. Somewhere within the evolution of mankind, we’ve established a hierarchy of life to which we compare our own to.

It is either a manifestation of insecurity or pride. 

Anna Light of puts it this way, “We compare because we are searching for a sense of security outside of ourselves….we are constantly searching for where we fall in the hierarchy of life. We want to know our place in life, where we fall and how we measure up to others because we lack a sense of security that should come from within.” Contrarily, there are those who compare from the root of pride-- or a need to be the best. Anna goes on to say that, “Type-A personalities are driven by this nature. [They are] often the best at things…so [their] propensity to compare comes from [their] desire to always be on top...a sense of security.”

Realizing these two things regarding comparison made what I had to do obvious, but not necessarily easy. I quickly identified with the pride driven comparison spurred on by my Type-A personality. I knew I had to “unlearn” what I was taught and take a huge pill of humility. I also learned that if ever I had an insecurity driven comparison, it would only be defeated by knowing my identity, purpose, and possessing confidence in who I am. Finally, I learned that this is an ongoing mental battle. One in which you have to continuously cast down thoughts that would cause you to feel both prideful and inadequate.

I’ll admit that I’m still on this journey. And, though I don’t have it all figured out, here are some tips that I can share from my journey.

  • 1. Remind yourself that life isn’t a competition

Whether you have to tattoo this in the palm of your hand or recite it as a daily affirmation, you need to remember this. You have to unlearn what we’ve been taught since birth. Life is not a competition and here’s why. A competition, by definition, is a “rivalry between two or more persons or groups for an object desired in common, usually resulting in a victor and a loser but not necessarily involving the destruction of the latter.” There are two things about this definition that completely remove life as being a plausible form of competition.

First, the other person has to be aware that they are in competition. Here’s a funny little fact when it comes to comparison, particularly via social media, the other person is never aware that they are being competed against. Which means, they’re not even in this made up competition. No competitor, no competition.

Secondly, the desired object must be the same. Aside from the founding principles of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the details of our individual pursuits are never the same. Why? Because no life experiences or circumstances are exactly the same. Therefore, my desires in life are completely different from another’s and vice versa. There is not competition when we’re striving for different things.

  • 2. Remember that you’re an apple and they’re an orange

No two people have the same story or life experiences that would make a comparison even remotely valid. Afterall, you wouldn’t compare an apple to an orange, would you? Nor would you compare the skills of a little league team to the MLB. Why? Because they’re just too different and the playing field isn’t equal. Why, then, do we insist on doing this by comparing ourselves to other people. No matter how much we may have in common, our difference are far to great to make a comparison.

  • 3. Realize that there is no lack

Surely, there is lack in the world, or else poverty wouldn’t exist. Right? Not quite. We live in a finite world that is sourced by an infinite heaven. Therefore, there is no shortage of money, success, happiness, or anything that you desire for your life. Heaven is limitless.

Comparison comes with the believe that if someone else has, you don’t have, or at least not the same measure. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. When you realize that you are connected to an unlimited source, you’ll realize that there is no lack and there’s plenty to go around.

  • 4. Eliminate your triggers

This is the most practical tip of all. Eliminate the things in your life that will trigger you to compare. For me, it was Instagram. So instead of subjecting myself to a barrage of pictures that I could use to compare my situation to, I decided to eliminate the trigger in the form of unfollowing. What triggers you to compare? In this day and age, it’s likely to also be social media. Unfollow, block, delete the whole app if you have to, just get rid of the trigger! (By the way, this is also solid advice for any form of self control. Get rid of the things that cause you to stumble.)

  • 5. Remind yourself of all the things you’re good at

Courtney of recently shared a post on Instagram posing the question, “What do you bring to the table?” In essence, what are you uniquely skilled at? What’s your magic that you bring to the world? If you’ve been comparing yourself to others, you’ll probably not be able to answer this question. You’ll feel like what you have to offer isn’t valid and is insignificant compared to others. That’s when you need to look at your track record and remind yourself just how doggon’ good you really are-- not in comparison to anyone else. Look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you’re awesome. If you don’t appreciate your strengths, no one else will. Learn to be confident and proud of your own self.

If, like me, you believe that you’re made in the image of God, then there should be no question that you’re good enough. You’re smart enough, talented enough, and equipped enough for your unique purpose. You were uniquely designed to carry out an assignment that only you can fulfill. Kind of like a the movie Taken, you have a “very particular set of skills” that only you possess. This makes you one of a kind, an exclusive, and more importantly, incomparable.

Don’t quite know that your unique purpose or gifts are? I created a course designed just for you. Click here to learn more about the Refresh & Reset Challenge-- a 7-day journey of discovering your uniqueness and purpose.