Comparing Ourselves To Others by Katherine Egan
Many people are caught up in the so-called rat race. Of course, as I wrote those words I immediately wondered where the phrase came from. So, here it is. The Cambridge.org online dictionary defines ‘rat race’ as: “a way of life in modern society, in which people compete with each other for power and money.”
You know how it is. Your neighbor purchases a new SUV and you turn to look at your old min-van, thinking it may be time for an upgrade. The house across the street just got a new paint job and even though your home was painted only two years ago, the color now seems old and outdated.
Or, your nine-year old comes home from school and asks for a popular brand of sneakers that cost $150 – because everyone else has them. You know full well that he’ll grow out of them in a month, but he is begging and he’s a really good kid, so you cave. And to top it all off, your sister just came back from an amazing all-inclusive vacation that had child care and adult-only time build right in. And you think, when was the last time we went on vacation?
Life is chock-full of comparisons. And. It. Sucks.
Here’s the thing. Never ever ever ever ever compare your life with someone else’s. For a number of reasons.
One, you never know what someone else is going through. Things may look all bright and shiny on the outside, but that person may be truly miserable and feel stuck in an unhappy life. Sure, she’s always smiling and perfectly made-up and dresses beautifully when people are watching, but when she’s alone she’s crying her eyes out in a flood of tears while eating ice cream right out of the container. For reasons uniquely her own. For reasons, you probably wouldn’t understand – because it’s not your life.
Two, each of us is a bio-individual human with unique life experiences, dreams, goals and challenges. That neighbor with the brand new SUV and gorgeous home with perfect landscaping may only want to meet the love of his life. People rarely reveal their negative emotions. When you ask someone how are you, they typically respond with, I’m good. Or things are great. Your neighbor is not going to break down and tell you his dating woes. You may think he has the life, dating all sorts of gorgeous women. Yet, he may feel truly alone and wonder what’s wrong with me?
Three, as Mark Twain said, comparison is the death of joy. If you are so busy watching others then you are missing out on your own life. When you are so focused on what someone else is doing or saying or buying – your life is passing you by. You are not in the present. You are in your head. You are dreaming about the future or regretting the past. You are not living.
Think about this. When you see someone succeed at something, does it bring you joy? Are you happy for them? Or do you feel envious? If you feel jealous, it brings you down. Jealousy is a negative emotion and it is depressing to hold onto those feelings of less, of lack, of resentment. Plus, the more you think about what you don’t have – the more of that you get. When you think ‘I’m broke’ or ‘I’m fat’ or ‘I’m sick’ – the universe hears broke, fat, sick and gives you more of that. The Universe thinks that’s what you want because that’s what you’re always thinking about. It’s the Law of Attraction.
Every once in a while, I think about what my life would have been like had I been raised with both parents. Yes, I do the comparison thing. You see, I lost my dad at 4 to divorce and then when I was 15 he passed away. Sure, I spent time with him, but it was never a regular thing. It wasn’t one of those every-other-weekend kinds of arrangements. I grew up with my mom as basically both mom and dad. Not an easy thing to do and she did a stellar job raising two amazing kids, if I do say so myself.
As an adult, I sometimes wonder who I would be, what me relationships would be like, how my life would be different had those things not happened. I missed out on growing up with my cousins. Sure, we’ve since reconnected on Facebook and sometimes in real life, but it’s not the same. When you spend your childhood laughing, growing, learning, experiencing with other kids – that forms life-long close-knit relationships. Those kinds of experiences teach you how to connect and relate to others. I spent a lot of my childhood alone and still struggle to this day with making friends. I feel that I am missing some key ingredient that everyone else knows about. It eludes me.
It’s nice to reflect on what might have been, but the reality is, how I grew up influenced who I am today. Every single experience, including the negative ones, helped shape the woman I am. So, I don’t regret anything. I don’t blame anyone. I am happy and healthy and well-balanced. I am proud of the woman I’ve become and of the woman I am becoming.
So how do we not compare?
If you find yourself thinking about someone else and making comparisons. Stop. Try this instead. Try to think about something you love. Think about what you have. Think about what you appreciate. Think about what’s good in your life. Think about all the things for which you are grateful. What you think about comes about. So the more you focus on gratitude, on what’s good and what’s positive – the more you will have to be grateful for.
Don’t spend your time thinking about what others are doing. Live your life, not someone else’s.
Figure out what you want in life. Figure out what brings you joy. Think about that. Do that.
As a final note, I want to make a distinction between happiness and joy; ‘what makes you happy’ versus ‘what brings you joy.’ Things and/or people can make you happy. If someone buys you a gift or gives you a compliment, it makes you happy. Joy comes from within. Joy, you control. My challenge to you: Choose joy.
Katherine S. Egan is an internationally certified Holistic Health Coach helping clients rediscover their path toward optimal health and live the life of their dreams. She is a loving wife, step-mom, blogger, optimist, philanthropist, lifelong learner, traveler, and outdoors enthusiast. Her first book, Genetics Isn’t Everything: How to Make Your “Genes” Fit You, is being released soon! You can visit Katherine at www.healthwealthfun.com.