I’m sure we’ve all come across the article(s) about the dangers of comparing ourselves with others, and the posts showing “real life” behind the perfect pictures. It’s always a feel-good read, and I’m reminded not to compare myself to the 100lb blogger with 5 kids and a six pack, but I inevitably fall back into the vicious cycle again of measuring myself to others.
Before I share some points, I need to explain how this all came to be. Scott and I got a puppy about two months ago, and I usually end up being the one to walk him a couple times a day. At first, this was cute, but after a while, it gets boring to just walk as your dog sniffs around, so I started listening to some podcasts to pass the time. I found myself slowly getting pulled towards self-help podcasts, and I find that all of the ones I’ve listened to I’ve twisted to helping me with this comparison issue I have, because although I’m giving this advice it’s still something that I’m working on. I am wickedly susceptible to the comparing game that happens on social media. I feel I’m constantly reminding myself that it’s only me I need to worry about, but it wasn’t until the last couple months after doing a few specific things that I’ve noticed a difference in how I view myself and have (started to) beat that nasty habit.
Double Check Your Values
In a really interesting study, a couple psychologists discussed “Wishful Seeing”. I’m really bad, because every time I read something I twist it so that it applies to what I want at that moment (wishful seeing! Haha), so you may very well read the article and it comes across very differently, but this is essentially what I got from it: what is important to you will stand out more. I had listened to Emily Balcetis, one of the authors of the article, on a TED talk, which I’ll talk more about later, and it really got me thinking. I notice the perfect hair, bodies, clothes, or whatever because that’s what I’m wanting. I realized I needed to take a step back and re-evaluate where I put value. I had been sucked into the notion that appearances are more important than character. When I’m looking at social media I remind myself about what’s really important to me: integrity, honesty, kindness (none of which I am an emblem of, but maybe someday). It changed who I followed, who I looked at, and, actually, how much time I spent on it. Though, fitness accounts are still my weakness. I love a good transformation story, you guys. When I’m looking at a person’s post, and they look thin and their makeup perfectly done, I remind myself to look for the values I want. They’re posting a picture with their children? I respect that. You go and spend quality time with your family. It’s not about how you look, it’s about how you act, and that’s what I’m trying to focus on. What I wish for in my life I will undoubtedly seek, so I might as well wish for more substantial things.
Maintain Your Own Vision
I work out (fairly) regularly, and find that I’m the kind of person who has to go to the gym. If I’m at home, I just end up watching a movie in my gym clothes and calling it a day. One day while walking Winston, I chose to listen to the TED talk “Why Some People Find Exercise Harder Than Others” because I was feeling like I wasn’t pushing myself very hard when I went, and seriously, exercising is hard for me. In it, Emily talks about the phrase “keep your eyes on the prize” and describes how people in a race who focused only on the finish line, instead of things happening on the sidelines, saw the finish line as 30% closer. Their goals were more attainable and there was no comparison with others. I needed to hear this. I oftentimes find myself working out, then noticing the insanely ripped girl in the corner doing handstand push ups and having my motivation slip quietly out the window. One day, I really thought about what my vision is. Where do I imagine myself being in a year? In a month? What were my goals for my job, for my body, for my relationships? I decided on my vision(s), and I repeatedly remind myself when I’m stuck in a rut of comparison that it doesn’t matter what’s happening on the sidelines, it matters what my finish line is; it matters what my vision is and not anyone else’s. I think it’s easy to compare when we are not totally engaged in our own goals. I find when I’m idle and aimless that I feel as though everyone around me is doing everything right and I’m just watching from the sidelines. I think when we have our own vision it’s also easier to be happier for other’s success. When we’re all anxiously engaged in something that feeling of competition fades away.
Keep A Growth Mindset
I could write about a growth mindset all freaking day. I am obsessed with the book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. It changed how I taught, how I looked at my marriage, and how I looked at people in general. It essentially teaches that people with a “fixed” mindset, which, hint hint, is not a good thing, are ones who believe that the traits they have are just aspects of their personality and they can’t change that; they are unwilling to try to change who they are. They also give up at the first sign of challenge and simply deem anything difficult as “not their thing”. They are, in simple terms, afraid of failure, and will do whatever they can to avoid it.
Growth mindsets, however, see failure as a step in a process of learning. They recognize that to fail means to be challenged, and those challenging things pay off. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong, most of us have been thinking the other way our entire lives, but I find life much more satisfying when I accept that it’s okay to fail and to not be perfect. It’s good to not be the best and to try something different and make yourself look like a fool. It’s terrifying, but I have gained more from this mindset than I can even put into words. I was the kid who wouldn’t run in a track meet because I knew I wouldn’t win, or I wouldn’t take calculus because I didn’t think I could be the best. I have been so scared to fail my entire life, and I found that I was just constantly looking around envying everyone’s successes and holding it against them because I was so afraid of my failures. I remember after my first year of university calling my mom because I didn’t do well in my classes, mostly because I slept through them, and saying, “Why didn’t you let me do a year long course and call it a day?! I should’ve done something easy!” In her wisdom, she told me how happy I would be at the end of my schooling. It seemed so far away, but thankfully I trusted her. And you know what? I figured it out. It was challenging, and I definitely failed at many things, but I cherish the things I learned about myself at that time. Failing is good, and just because someone isn’t failing at the same things as you does not mean they aren’t failing at some thing. Instead of pitting yourself against the world, recognize that we’re all running very different races, and cheer for everyone.
And there you have it. Three things I have been working on. I think I could sum this entire spiel into one sentence: Focus on your finish line, and cheer on the other runners.