Everyone knows that person who seems to excel in all that they do. They have that dream job (that probably pays them a lot of money). They seem to reach the goals they set with ease. Their social media feed is filled with beautiful pictures of their smiling faces. They always seem to be so put together...and next to that image you seem to be struggling so much.
Maybe you are happy for these people and celebrate their many accomplishments alongside them! Maybe you’re sick of hearing about the latest adventure in Mr. Perfect’s life. You can have any number of outward attitudes toward these people, but have you considered how you’re reacting internally? For many of us, seeing and hearing about the accomplishments of others can trigger negative self talk.
“I could never go to college like her, I’m just not smart enough.”
“It must be nice to have a body like that. I could never lose that much weight.”
“They’re going on another vacation this year?! I won’t ever have the money to do that.”
Comparing ourselves to others is an all-too-easy form of negative self talk that has harmful consequences. What we say to ourselves (in our heads or out loud) form our beliefs, which then become convictions that we live into.
Our negative self-talk, seemingly nagging, little, harmless thoughts at first, are creating realities where we are never as smart, fun, attractive, accomplished, happy, or good as other people. When we compare ourselves to others, we are killing our own ability to be great.
When you allow negative self-talk, you’re hurting your commitment to any positive behavior. Here is the truth of the matter: What others achieve is irrelevant to your life and your satisfaction. How so? Because...
So, Tammy ran a marathon. Do you want to run a marathon, too, or does that sound like an awful thing to put your body through? Greg is traveling the world again. Do you want to be a full-time traveler, too? Or does that sound taxing and are you just itching for a vacation?
The point is, we all have different goals and all goals have different paths to take to achieve them. Your focus may be in a different area, and that’s okay! Or you may be on a different timeline (i.e. running a marathon next year instead of this year - Tammy had to train before she ran one, too!). If everyone was crossing the finish line at the same time, life wouldn’t be very interesting.
Looking to Tammy’s example as a positive role model is also not the same as comparing, and could keep you motivated- knowing that you’re doing the best you can with what you have at each step in the process, until you make it!
Everyone wants to take the photos of them looking like they’re having a good time. Tammy is likely not going to post about the painful blisters she has on her feet right now, and Greg likely isn’t showcasing the moment he got stung by a jelly fish during that photoshoot.
If you are comparing your life with something you saw online, remember that people are not their internet personas and that you’re not getting the full picture. They are also showing you where they are, not what it took to get there. Speaking of…
Much like the old “success” poster that uses an iceberg as a metaphor for success, you’re only catching a glimpse of a person’s story when you learn where they are now. Without a doubt, there were many failures on their road to success. There were probably moments when they wanted to give up, and when they felt depressed or angry. There were moments when they felt just like you feel right now. Chances are, the person you are comparing yourself to isn’t as “put together” as they seem to be. They had difficult times with their commitments, just like you.
Most of the time you are not making a fair comparison, and that comparison becomes a quick way to kill your commitments. Remember to put others’ success in context the next time you start to compare. Engaging in positive self talk, being okay with being imperfect, and reminding yourself that you are driven by your own values are all ways to defend against the perils of negative self talk.
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