Literally: Comparing your life with others sucks the energy out of you and makes you feel bad. It causes suffering, pain, and envy. And as one wise person once said (King Solomon), “Envy rots the bones.” Yet comparing your life with others is natural. That’s not good because when you compare yourself with people you think are superior to you, it makes you feel bad; while, when you compare yourself with people you think are inferior to you, it makes you feel prideful and, consequently, you don’t maximize your potential because you think you’ve arrived. So how do we get out of this comparison game?
Because comparison comes so natural to all of us, it will always be with us to some degree. But here are three ways to help minimize it to such a degree that it no longer controls your emotional state and sabotages your ability to live a fulfilling life.
1. Your race is your race.
There are many areas of life: time, $$, romance, health, family, hobbies, work, and education. In each of these areas you run your race.
The goal is to grow, enjoy, and live with passion and love in each area. Ultimately, you want to maximize your own potential in each area.
You are not running your dad’s race. You’re not running your mom’s race. You’re not running your 6th grade teacher’s race. You’re not running your colleague’s race. You’re not running your neighbor’s race. You’re not running the race of the family that lives in the mansion. Your not running the homeless guy’s race.
You’re running your race. You’re maximizing your potential.
Some people were born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Some look at those people and say, “Wow, they were born on third base, that’s not fair.” Not me, I think it’s a disadvantage because they don’t have to overcome, push through, and refine their character in ways they would otherwise get to. But I don’t judge them for that. I’m responsible for my own race.
Others have good healthy genetics, some don’t. Other’s were born with loving parents, some were sexually abused. Others have a wonderful romantic life, some live with relational brokenness.
The point: you are running your own race and will never be held accountable for anyone else’s race. So there’s no since in comparing your life with others. Everyone is born in different ways, under different circumstances. You can cheer others on, get inspired by them, and serve them – but never compare your life with them. When you remember that it’s about maximize your own potential – and that because nobody has the same set of life circumstances as you, thus comparison isn’t even logically legit – you get out of the comparison game.
2. Don’t be an “If Only” person
We all fall into this trap at times. “If only” I had that job. “If only” had those parents. “If only” I had a million dollars. “If only” my spouse was kinder. “If only…”
- Then I could follow my dream.
- Then I would be happy.
- Then I would give more.
When we start the “If only…then,” we are saying it’s someone else’s fault. Maybe we blame God: “God, if only you would’ve put me in that family. If only you would’ve answered my prayers. If only you would’ve given me wealth.”
Or maybe we blame our bosses, clients, or family. It doesn’t matter who we blame because once we blame, we disempower our lives – which keeps us from thinking 10x thoughts and taking massive action toward what we want in life.
Remedy: Take 100% responsibility for everything you can. This will empower you. Instead of saying, “If only, then” start saying, “I’m grateful, now let’s get to it.”
3. Get Perspective
Perspective means you only see a slice of reality. So when you compare yourself with someone you think is superior to you in some way, what you’re really doing is comparing your behind the scenes junk and emotional uncertainty with their highlight reels and public smiles.
You and I don’t know the full version of other peoples lives. And if we did, we’d probably have great empathy for them. They, too, have emotional uncertainty about life. They, too, argue with their spouse. They, too, have deep rooted fears. They, too, are scared.
Same with people you perceive to be inferior to you in some way. I once met a homeless man who had been a millionaire just 3 months earlier but because of some horrible unjust circumstances, he was on the street trying to rebuild his life. You never know.
And others think of you as a person full of highlight reels. If you’re reading this, you live in the top 2% of the world, economically speaking. So if you carry around emotional uncertainty and behind the scenes junk, don’t you think the people you consider full of highlight reels do too?
Here are some quick ways to gain perspective: perspective strategies that move your life forward.
4. BONUS Strategy (for those who believe in God): Measure your life by how God measures you.
He loves you unconditionally, is always satisfied with you, and is never done with growing you. As Lewis said, “If God can be satisfied with his work (you), then you can be satisfied with his work.”
Comparison doesn’t help, not even for you high achievers. You either feel terrible or get a little complacent. You don’t have to compare your life with others to achieve greatness. Go get the life you want, and instead of achieving because you think that’ll make you happy, happily achieve through all the tugs and joys of life.
Instead of comparing your life with others and saying, “They are skinnier, richer, nicer, better, inferior, superior, smarter…” work your way out of the comparison game. Life’s too short not to live your own life. Comparison is debilitating, depressing, and exhausting. Follow the above strategies to get off the treadmill of comparison.