We have all been there. For me it was when I diagnosed with a tibial stress fracture two weeks before the 2015 Boston Marathon.
My training was spot on. I was on track to PR that day and then I started to feel extreme pain in my shin. I didn’t want to believe that this was happening, so I kept training on it and soon I was not able to put any pressure on that leg whatsoever. The doctor delivered the bad news. I was devastated. I had worked so hard for that moment, and in an instant it was gone.
I was sidelined for almost 8 months, and during that time I was an emotional mess. Not only was my stress outlet stripped away from me, I was compounding it by watching other runners on social media. I was turning green with envy. I even wrote about it HERE.
I got through that time in my life and I am slowly – and I mean slowly – getting myself back into running. But, I learned so much during those 8 months. I learned how destructive my envy was and how it held me back from so many things. I became aware of just how much I was isolating myself and withdrawing from friendships. I realized I felt guilty for feeling envy. So many of these emotions are real and normal, but they were also a big time suck and didn’t serve me or those around me in any way.
Let’s talk about why my life and yours will be better if we stop comparing ourselves to others.
- It only holds you back from achieving your own goals.
- It’s negative energy and that is like carrying very heavy luggage when you don’t need to. Pack light, so that your journey will be more carefree.
- It takes up time. Time that could be utilized working toward bettering yourself.
- When all you do is think about what others have that you don’t, it prevents you from coming up with your own creative ideas and goals.
- It only hurts one person and that person is YOU.
You might, for a moment, feel superior if you talk down about others, but in the long run, it will leave you feeling worse. It’s kind of like eating a doughnut when you could be eating something healthy. Tastes pretty good in the moment, but what about the long term? What’s important to you? While you are mentally trashing someone else’s success, they are busy going after even bigger goals. Comparing yourself to others is a “time suck.” Let it go and get busy with your own awesomeness.
Okay, so now we understand some of the reasons why it’s destructive, but how do we stop comparing ourselves to others?
Here are a few things that helped me, and I hope you find them helpful as well.
1- Meditation – Spending 10 minutes a day in silence can do more good for you than just about anything else. When you focus on the simple act of breathing, you come away from that with a very clear sensation of being more than just your thoughts. If you can tell yourself throughout the day, ” I am more than my thoughts,” you will tap into what is beneath them– that’s where your true light and power dwell. It’s free and accessible to anyone anytime– why not give it a try? I find guided meditation apps very helpful, especially when first starting out.
2- Awareness – The first step in any life change is to be aware of what you what to change. I am assuming that if you are reading this and have come here because the title resonated with you, that you might be aware that you compare yourself to others. That’s good because I’m pretty confident that unless you are The Dali Llama or the Pope, you have compared yourself, felt jealousy, or have felt envy. There is a reason these emotions have been written about in the Bible and ancient texts, because it’s a natural, normal human emotion that we have from time to time. Once you are aware of jealous thoughts that come up, then you can work through them with more open eyes, as opposed to walking blindly through life.
3- Self Compassion – When negative feeling arise, it’s best to take a deep breath, give yourself a hug, and “parent” the voice inside your head that is saying things like, “why can’t I have that?” Or “must be nice for her.” Or “Wow, can’t believe she achieved that, she’s not that great.” Those voices are all like little kids, and your rational more mature “parent” voice needs to compassionately reason your way through this. See number 1, we are much more than our thoughts.
4- Logic – Sometimes when you start feeling envious of someone else, use some logic to help back yourself off the cliff. Here are few things to ask yourself, “Do you really believe that this person “has it all?” Success comes in all different forms — Identify and focus on what you have achieved not what you haven’t. Even if it’s something really small, direct your attention the positives in your own life instead of what someone else has achieved.
5- Stop the Social Media Madness – Social media has done some really wonderful things. It connects old time friends, and family members, it provides a platform for people to express themselves, but it can be very linear. It is only showing you a very one dimensional side of someones life. People tend to share their achievements and their joy. If they are failing in someway, I assure you most wouldn’t be posting that on Facebook. There is always more to everyone’s story that what you see. Someone who is a very successful runner might have a difficult marriage. Someone who just qualified for Boston, might be struggling to be an attentive parent– you just never know what’s happening behind the scenes–word of caution though, be careful not to tell yourself things that “put yourself above someone else,” try to have compassion, we all have our struggles. If getting on social media triggers you to feel envious, give yourself a break from it until you are strong enough to work through those feelings of jealously.
6- Write It Out – At the end of each week, jot down the things you did that week that are your accomplishments or things you are proud of. In a separate columns, write down everything you are grateful for. Plan the next week so that you do activities that set you up for success. Example- meal plan wholesome meals that can be prepared easily so that you don’t eat junk all week. Create a running or workout plan so that you don’t skip the physical activity. Plan your finances, so that you are less likely to overspend. Set yourself up for success.
7- Encouragement – Identify who your “cheerleaders” are, but also note the ones dragging you down. If at all possible, slowly back away from the naysayers in your life. I realize that oftentimes they are family members and in those cases you may need to manage that situation differently. But, identify who in your life encourages and supports you, then nurture those relationships. Give yourself some space from the people who view themselves as “victims” and who make you feel unhappy all of the time.
8- Identify Triggers – We all have days when we are “off.” Maybe you’re hormonal, perhaps your kids have taken their toll on you, maybe you are recovering from an illness. There are thousands of “triggers”, some are small and others are major. When you have “off” days, weeks, or months, try and exercise self care and be sure to know how you will deal with it if a trigger should come up. On those days, maybe you need extra mediation, to ban yourself from social media, be with an empathic friend, or find comfort in solitude. If you are already vulnerable, proceed in life with caution and self protection.
9- Establish Your “Why” – If you are truly jealous of someone else’s accomplishment and you would like that same achievement, then list all of the benefits of what you consider success. Establish small goals for yourself so that you are working toward something more positive. It didn’t happen overnight for them and it won’t for you either.
10- Stay Focused – You may never rid yourself of that “jealousy” feeling, but you certainly can catch yourself when you do and redirect your attention to the positive aspects of your own life.
11- Don’t Give Up – Let’s say you start on your own path to success and it’s derailed by a naysayer, someone you know has achieved something you view as better than you, or you just have a crummy day and you stop trying. Don’t let that stop you from starting over. Try not to beat yourself up and simply begin again. The bigger the goal the more challenges it will present and the longer it will take. Mentally prepare yourself ahead of time that you won’t give up no matter what.
12- Take Risks and Learn to Tap Into Your Intuition – My Father and I are very close. He has taught me many things, but one of the major concepts he has taught me is that if you have an idea (intuition), don’t walk away from it, and be willing to take risks. If you are not willing to risk failing, you will never ever achieve major life accomplishments. Failing hurts, but it’s better to fall on your face and pick yourself up than to never try at all.
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I am sure that there is some evolutionary reason that we humans feel jealously and envy, but I’m no scientist. I’m just a girl who’s been through this. I do however have a deep understanding that this is normal behavior that if left unattended can cause some real damage. In these circumstances, I find it best to look inward and ask, “How can I rise up from the metaphorical ashes?”
I hope you found some of these tips as useful as I have found them to be. We all struggle through life, and practicing self care isn’t always easy, but in the long run it is by far the better choice than walking blindly through life.