I was driving through town the other day and I saw a beautiful home with an immaculate yard, and a fancy car in the driveway. I found myself admiring the home, but my thoughts went beyond admiring. I pictured the beautiful couple, their perfect children, and their immaculately clean furniture. I also pictured their perfect smiles as they looked longingly into each other’s eyes. Their gazes were made of pure joy, and nothing could ruin their happiness. They send their kids to all the fancy camps, vacation in exotic places, grow more and more passion every year, laugh all day every day, never fight, and will grow old together, never experiencing any hardship because their lives are perfect.
Sounds great…and it’s not exactly my reality.
When I was picturing this beautiful life I started to compare my home, my yard, my things, and my family to the fantasy world I had created around the home I passed. I started to feel a longing to have those things, to be that perfect, to have that much happiness. There’s the danger. I was comparing.
The thing with comparison is it can leave us feeling…not enough. We aren’t enough, our money isn’ t enough, our joy isn’t enough, our love isn’t enough.
“The grass is always greener…”
As Atlanta therapists we meet people every day who struggle with comparison. Thankfully, as soon as I noticed myself comparing I stopped myself. I know that comparing in this way isn’t healthy for me. It doesn’t get me anywhere. Instead, I practiced gratitude and reality acceptance. I thought about the fact that kids are messy. Life is messy. Love is messy. And, kids are fun, life is beautiful, and love is powerful. I thought about all of the things in my life that I am truly grateful for. I thought about all of the ways I can give to others who have it so much harder than me.
And I noticed, I was feeling grateful, thankful, and a longing to give to others. That’s such a better place to be than stuck in the never ending comparison cycle.
Now, hear this Atlanta therapist out. I know some of you think you thrive off of comparison. You see what others have and it pushes you to do better, work harder, and conquer the world. Here’s the trick though. You can choose to identify things you want to work on, without comparing yourself to someone else. It can be healthy to set goals, utilize self-discipline, and work to reach those goals. But there will always be someone who has more, looks better, or is more athletic. And, if you live your life comparing to others and lacking gratefulness and contentment you are at risk for things like depression and anxiety.
Working as a therapist in Atlanta, I’ve met lots of highly successful business people who struggle with anxiety, depression, and imposter syndrome. Those are not fun and often times can come up without warning.
My thoughts on combating comparison…practice unashamed thankfulness. Name at least five things you are grateful for every day. Genuinely practice slowing yourself down and being grateful for the little things like fresh air, a great ballgame, or that yummy doughnut you had for breakfast. Then, practice noticing character values about others rather than materialistic things. Notice how kind a person is, or how ambitious another person is. Notice how well your boss speaks to subordinates, or how the Starbucks barista always gives you a warm smile.
One last thought on combating comparison. If you’re struggling with negative self-talk, you’ll need to change that. Instead of thinking, “I want to be that person. I want to have as much money as him. I want to be as good looking as her…” Change your thoughts to avoid comparing to another person while still identifying what you want to improve upon or increase. This can look something like the following “I’d like to increase my social skills, I want to build valuable skills that will assist me with earning more money, I want to learn to style my hair in a certain way….” This kind of slight change allows you to avoid comparison while still being realistic about areas in which you would like to change. As an Atlanta therapist, I have helped many people work on negative self-talk. Feel free to contact us if you would like help with this.