If we only wanted to be happy, it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, and that is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are – Charles de Montesquieu, French politician and philosopher
What are you really comparing?
Do you often compare yourself to others? It is a fact that we naturally tend to compare ourselves to others to evaluate how well we are doing and if we are “normal”. My guess is that you are constantly comparing yourself to others. But the question is: “Are you really comparing yourself to others? Probably not. How can we compare things when there is a huge information asymmetry. We don’t even know ourselves! How can we possibly know how others feel, whether they are happy or not, whether they really love themselves or not. We don’t know anything about their story, we don’t know what kind of problems they have but we idealize them.
Have you never been surprised to hear about someone who had apparently every reason to be happy but who committed suicide. As a introverted I always thought that extroverted people were happier. For introverts like me, each time we interact with people in any kind of events we are depleting our energy. However, for extroverts, it is through social interaction that they get energized. I believed that because of the fact that no matter how tired they are, they have always enough energy to talk to other people, it means that they have more energy and are generally happier than introverts like me. But it is probably an illusion. What I am doing here is just projecting my introverted personality on extroverts minds. In reality I have no means to understand how extroverts inner psychology works.
Selection Bias – When People Compare Apples and Oranges
As if information asymmetry was not enough, to make it worse we select things about ourselves we are really unhappy about, then we choose the person we believe is the “happiest” in that area we are dissatisfied with and we “compare”. Have you done that too? I often find myself picking up the best qualities of several of my friends and comparing myself to them to see how I am doing in those areas. This friend is so confident. This friend is so smart. This friend is so handsome. This friend is so funny. This friend is so good at sports. I’m just not good enough.
Or maybe you regularly compare yourself to other without being really aware of it when you look at facebook. Have you notice how everyone seems to have an awesome life on facebook? And you! Look how miserable you are :p
Would you say your sedan sucks because, it is not as fast as Brian’s sports car, not as spacious as Jim’s station wagon and not as robust as Tim’s pick-up without even looking at the benefits that provides your car compared to each of those cars? It is nevertheless what we tend to do when we compare ourselves to other people. And the worse thing is that a car can be analyzed objectively but not a human being.
Comparing yourself to others doesn’t do you any good
There are two possibilities: you can either compare yourself to someone who you believe is happier or is doing better than you in a certain area, or you can compare yourself to someone who you believe is not as happy or as good as you in a certain area. We tend to do both and they are both sign that we are lacking self-esteem. In the first case, we are beaten ourself up and and are unlikely to take positive actions. In the second case, we sometimes take a guilty pleasure to see people not doing as well as we are. It might be a comfortable place to be but it is not something that is empowering you in the long term. You might hide behind this comfort and not take the necessary action to work on your self-esteem. You might not challenge ourself to accomplish what you really want to accomplish. Worse, you might prevent your friends to change and grow.
Comparing yourself to other prevent you from being your true self
When we compare ourselves to other people we try to fit to a certain model given by our environment. We forget what really matter to us and we mistakenly think that we should do what our “happy” friends do or be just like them. I reckon that it is not necessarily the case. You might hate big parties and prefer small gatherings but your extroverted friend might love big parties. You might enjoy three-day vacations or having regularly your afternoon off when most people prefer long vacations. Or maybe you don’t like that much going on vacation.
Until recently I didn’t know what to say when people ask me about my hobbies since I spend a great deal of my time studying which doesn’t sound like a very sexy hobby! (which is very unfortunate). Now, I just say that studying is my hobby and that I like to read books on personal development, work on my inner psychology, on my habits, on my communication skills and keep growing.
We shouldn’t forget that in the end we are attracted by people similar to us. By trying to impress people or behave like we think we should behave rather than by being authentic, we risk to miss opportunities to connect with people with similar values and interest as us and to attract instead people with whom we are unlikely to connect at a deeper level.
Personally, I don’t really like big parties but I really enjoy one on one conversation with good friends as well as very small gatherings. When I talk to people I want to know what is important for them, what are their dreams, their challenges, their values, what excites them, what makes them special. I just want to know who they are! However, when I’m at a party, I don’t know how to do that and I end up having very superficial conversations. I’m not very good at small talk and don’t really enjoy it.
Tips to Stop Comparing yourself with others
Never compare myself to others is one of my golden rule and a key rule to whoever wants greater peace of mind and more happiness. I believe that the need to compare ourselves to others is due to a lack of self-esteem and a lack of understanding about our true self. I will talk more in depth about the idea of being true to ourselves in future articles.
Here are a few tips you can try out:
Try to catch yourself when you are comparing yourself to someone else. Are you objective? What are you really comparing? What do you really know about him/her?
Imagine reasons why others might not be as happy as you think:
- What if he has a chronic illness that he will have to live with for the rest of his life?
- What if he pretend to be happy and confident but has in fact very low self-esteem (I’m sure you have heard about people seemingly happy who commit suicide, haven’t you?)
- What if he actually think you are happier than him
Write down the strength you have and that he probably doesn’t have.
Yes, some of the people you know are smarter than you are, better looking than you are, or earn more money than you do. Is it unfair? Maybe, maybe not? Honestly I don’t know. I don’t know if they are happier than me or not, I’m not in their shoes. If they are, good for them! But let’s not forget that in the end happiness is a choice. Have you made that choice?
Happiness is a mental habit, a mental attitude, and if it is not learned and practiced in the present it is never experienced. It cannot be made contingent upon solving some external problem – Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life
What about you? What are your ways to get rid of that bad habit of comparing ourselves to others? I’m curious to know.
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