Growing up I experienced so much anxiety it stunted my self-confidence.
This caused me to feel so frustrated at my perceived failures I continuously beat myself up about it. I would look around at other people and think, “Why couldn’t I be like them?” Why couldn’t I be smarter? Why wasn’t I better looking? Why did I have no friends? Did I fit in? Will they like me? These are the types of thoughts that lead you to a whole lot of pain and suffering. This type of thinking does not need to happen, and I’m here to show you how to change your perception.
Changing this can help you develop yourself to the point where you have little or no social anxiety, you are able to come up with realistic creative solutions to the problems you face, you can learn to see yourself as a fluid person and not a static being.
The History of Comparing Yourself to Other People
the condensed version
Where did we learn this behavior?
We learned it from our parents, our friends, tv, advertising, the media, seeing other people do things that we can’t do, failure, taking things personally, etc. What we learned is that we are not good enough or that we don’t measure up.
What is so bad about comparing yourself to other people?
There has been research completed which identifies the effect on performance of those who maintain an internal comparison versus those who use external factors to manage themselves. In the research, it showed that in stressful settings, those who were internally managed were found to “perceive less stress, employ more task-centered coping behaviors, and employ fewer emotion-centered coping behaviors than externals.” In high stress situations, those with an internal comparison performed better than those who used external factors for a comparison. (Locus of control, coping behaviors, and performance in a stress setting: A longitudinal study by Anderson, Carl R)
So what does this mean for you?
First off, you aren’t somebody else. You are you. You may wish you were someone else, but you are still you. By comparing yourself to other people, you automatically tell yourself that you aren’t good enough and that you can be compared to other people. This leads to all kinds of anxiety, self-loathing, anger, hatred, and generally all kinds of nasty behavior which is unnecessary.
I’ve lived it. Occasionally, this kind of nonsense will return into my head. Even after all the years I have worked at this, I still face my demons… But, now I’m smarter.
Important note: realize that shaming yourself further cements you in this destructive pattern. Those emotional anchors are there, but you don’t have to feed them.
So, what can we do about this when it happens? How do we ‘fix’ it?
Start comparing yourself to yourself!
What I mean by that is that instead of comparing yourself to other people compare yourself to how you were in the past.
Say for e.g. if you were trying to learn a new song on your guitar. You get really frustrated because you are having trouble learning a specific part of the song, or even the whole song entirely. Your mental process kicks in about how you are not good enough, how you are not as good as your friend Jack who can play this song as well as a hundred more difficult songs, and then you start comparing yourself to Jimi Hendrix who could literally play this song with his teeth. Ah, the misery!
Think about when you never played the guitar. Think about when you learned your first chord. Think about the first time you ever put two chords together and the experience you had. Maybe it was damn easy for you or maybe it was difficult.
But the fact is, you have gotten yourself to the point that you can even consider playing a song. That means you have developed your interests, you have motivated yourself to locate/buy a guitar, you have found someone/something to teach you, you have learned your first chord and so on.
Do you see how much you have grown? Do you remember how it was not always easy? Did you somehow think that it was easy for everyone? Other than the rare exception, things don’t come easy to people. It takes hard work, dedication and persistence.
If you don’t play the guitar or have never played the guitar, have no fear! This situation can be applied to literally anything you do. If you think you aren’t as smart as someone else, you start comparing yourself to other people who are way ‘smarter’ leading to the same process. It all comes down to not being good enough.
What if you were good enough? What if there was no such thing as good enough?
What if you decided, instead of comparing yourself to other people, you would accept yourself as you are and go from there?
Let’s say that within your personality lies something that you can do incredibly well, and also even better than someone else.
Impossible!!!! You say…
Jimi Hendrix wasn’t born with a guitar in his hand, and I can guarantee you it wasn’t always easy. His first guitar was actually a one string ukulele which his father gave to him after he saw him running around with a broom pretending to play Elvis Presley songs.
It took him time to figure out what he wanted as he became interested in football in his teens. It wasn’t always easy for Jimi, but he stayed on his path certain that he would find his calling.
After the loss of his mother he was given his first acoustic guitar and Jimi was hooked. He fell in love with playing the guitar… when his “something that [you] can do incredibly well, and also maybe even better than someone else’ showed up. It became a pleasure to learn and play the guitar.
Do you think Jimi Hendrix really gave a #$$% what other people thought of him playing guitar? In his younger years, he was actually very insecure… but when he realized his passion, it didn’t matter so much anymore…
I guarantee you he would never have experience the success that he had if he continued to care so much about what people thought about him. He was focused on expressing his self and his love for HIMSELF. Other people just got to enjoy it as a side bonus.
It was his passion. He felt that he was good enough, and felt secure enough to pursue his love.
Wouldn’t you feel free doing that? If you realized that every person is a sum of all their parts. Each person has strengths and weaknesses. If you consider that some people literally don’t understand math, some are bad at math, some are good at math and some are incredible at math, you can consider that people are made in all shapes and sizes.
Consider that if you feel that you are not strong in one area, you can improve in that area, or work to improve in that area. You can also choose to look for the thing which you love. Every step you take on this path, you can reward yourself because you are moving towards what moves you. Even if you take the time to work on your weaknesses (which I highly suggest), and you are struggling you can still reward yourself for working on your weaknesses even if you have seen no tangible gains yet.
Eventually you will make progress and you can look back on yourself and realize how far you have come. It feels great!
Doesn’t this sound a lot better than comparing yourself to other people? Recognize that while other people may have their gifts, you have yours. There are people who write way better than me, but that doesn’t change how much I love to write!
There are people who are better than me in probably everything that I consider myself to be good at, but I’m not living for them I’m living for me. I know that I own what I have and I can appreciate that. I may or may not be the best at something, but I can follow the path that I love and see where it takes me.
When I start comparing myself to other people, I think… uh, that actually makes no sense. Take 100% responsibility for your life. If you don’t like something, go out and change it about yourself. And if you can’t, accept it and start focusing on what you control instead of what you don’t.
Aim to express instead of aiming to impress.
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