As I talk with people about how they can live their best lives, there’s a question they ask again and again: “What should I do when I find myself comparing myself to others? I know it’s not a good idea, and it definitely makes me feel bad, but it’s so hard to stop!”
Perhaps you compare your home with other people’s homes, or your career with their careers, or your parenting, or your body size or your bank account size with theirs.
Social media has made it even easier for us to compare our lives to others’ – all the time -- and for our inner critics to take the reins from there.
In my own life, I’ve noticed something. When I find myself comparing my life to other people’s lives, something else is going on: I’ve gotten off track from my own path. One of two things are going on with me:
1. I’m not practicing my passions, the activities I love to do. I love to write. I love to dance. I love to create–creating a beautiful party or creating a course or creating a vision for the year ahead. Those things – writing, dancing, creating – are my highway to joy. When I’m doing them, I’m so absorbed in that journey that I don’t worry about how I measure up next to others. Your list of passions is surely different – maybe you love to paint or ride horses or organize details or write code. But you have a list too.
When I’m not practicing my passions enough, not following the mystery of where they take me, I get cranky and bored. And then, and only then, I start looking outward to what others are doing and comparing myself unfavorably to them.
2. I also compare myself to others when I’m denying a calling – a project or endeavor that I feel a longing toward. I really want to do a particular project in my business but I’ve convinced myself I can’t yet for this or that reason. Or, I have a long-held dream that I’m refusing to accept is a real dream.
And as I talk to people about their own pull to compare themselves, I hear the same truth reflected in their stories. We compare when we’ve gotten off track with our own lives.
In other words, comparing ourselves to others isn’t the problem. It’s a consequence of the real problem, which is that we have turned away from our own path in some way.
We can’t stop comparing ourselves to others by trying to stop. We need something to turn our gaze toward. We need to answer the calls in our hearts. We need to bravely reclaim our passions – even if we think we don’t have time for them or our inner critics talked us out of doing them long ago.
That means, rather than being a bummer, the act of comparing yourself with others can be your warning system. It signals that it’s time for you to ask yourself, “What important activity that I love am I not doing enough of in my life?” and “What callings am I ignoring?”
Embrace your callings (find out how to identify them in this post), pursue your passions, and then you’ll be on your path.
That path will be so damn intoxicating, joyful and scary that you will become absorbed in it. You’ll have less time and energy and need to look outward, but when you do, you will experience everyone else’s accomplishments in a much lighter way.
We each are given our passions and our callings, and they are among the greatest blessings we receive in this lifetime.
Life loved us enough to give us that gift, but we have to love ourselves enough to receive it, and use it. When we do, comparing will naturally fade away.