Making a change
Six years ago, I quit my job. I decided that I needed to work on myself, on my own goals, and stop measuring my life by other people’s. I also wanted to help those who suffered like I had.
And so I decided to train to become a coach. I completed a certificate in life coaching with The Coaching Academy, going to the diploma before undertaking qualifications in supporting modalities, including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.
Now, I work specifically as a comparison coach. This means that unlike other coaching generalists, I work with clients purely on the topic of comparisons. Every single part of my business - seeing clients, presenting workshops, giving talks in schools, writing, social media and so on is all focused on dissolving that urge to measure our lives against others' so we can feel more focused, confident and boost our self-worth.
Building self confidence
When people come to me, they are often at their wit’s end, driving themselves mad with comparison. Common questions they ask me include 'how do I stop comparing?', 'how do I handle my envy?’, 'how can I get clear on what I want?’ and ‘how can I feel like I’m good enough?’ It's sad to know that so many people do not believe that they deserve to live happier lives.
The potential for analysing our own success against that of others is ingrained within all of us. Social media massively exacerbates it, but of course it goes back much further than that.
We learn to do it from an early age, and we will feel it differently depending where we are in our lives at the time. It can happen in any area; relationships, career, life milestones, even leisure activities, such as wondering why other people have better holidays than us.
It can make us envious, jealous, prone to negativity and aggression. It constantly drags us down. In short, it makes us feel like we are not good enough. However, we don’t have to succumb to these feelings. Here’s how to take back control..
Start with your knicker drawer
Yes, really. Comparison is inextricably linked with self-worth. By devaluing ourselves, we are opening the door to negativity towards others.
I joke with people that if they show me their knicker drawer, I'll be able to tell them instantly about their self worth. When we have a low sense of self, it's all too easy for us to skip on the functional aspects of life - from using an old toothbrush to wearing old, faded knickers.
The higher your self-worth, the more you are embodying and loving yourself - and comparison just cannot operate with that. So, treat yourself to some new knickers, and show pride in yourself. It doesn’t matter that others may not see them. It’s about how the act makes you feel.
Notice what bothers you
Our comparison triggers are unique to us. A good way of discovering your problem area is to take note of what it is that grabs your curiosity, because that nosiness is often a warning sign.
For instance, let’s say you find yourself constantly evaluating a friend's relationship with their grandchildren, and begin to compare it with your own situation because they see each other more often, or seem to have a stronger bond than you do.
Instead of subconsciously taking your negativity out on your own family, take a step back and analyse how you can open the conversation about you seeing more of your grandchildren. It is all too easy to wallow in jealousy.
Ultimately, the feeling that we don’t measure up is there to teach us something, but it's our choice whether we learn the lesson or not. What you notice can lead you to what you need to know to make a change.
Use your insight
Once you have identified your main area of comparison, look at how you can use it. What are your goals and wants in that area? What feels like the right thing for you to be moving towards? And what action can you take to make it happen?
I often advise clients to start a journal, and use it to record each time they feel they’re not as capable, driven or successful as someone else – from a pang of jealousy at work, to clicking through endless holiday photos on an acquaintance’s Facebook page.
From there, they can then start to review the recurring themes, write down where they want to be, and plan how they might get there. It’s about using the comparison as a stimulus to move through, honing in on what really fuels you.
I know that if I’m focused on where I want to be, I don’t tend to pay too much attention to other people because I know what I’m doing, and I’m doing it for my own reasons.
Find a 'compass' word
A ‘compass word’ is a deep set belief or core principal to guide you. To come up with it, consider what’s important to you, but try not to overthink it. It might be adventure, or perhaps peace; a word that is going to help influence your decisions and keep you on track.
If you focus on yourself, you are far less likely to be negatively affected by other people. The compass word is a guide; something to hone in on when you find yourself measuring your life against others.
A couple of years ago, my word was ‘space’. That didn’t just mean tidying my house. It also meant not triple booking myself. So when invites flooded in on WhatsApp, I would use my compass word to say ‘thank you so much, I’ll let you know nearer the time, but if you want to know right now, it’s a no'.
It’s about delivering on that promise to yourself, ensuring you stay focused on what you want. Then, when comparison threatens to veer you off course, it will help you to stay in your lane, to keep moving in the right direction.
Focus on possibility
Let’s say you really want a new car. If you see someone drive past in a Lamborghini, instead of letting the jealousy and comparison overpower you, try saying, out loud, the phrase: ‘good for you and the same for me.’
What that does is reinforces the idea that it could happen for you, too. Instead of being stuck in that comparison moment, it moves you through it.
Just because something currently isn’t there, it doesn’t mean it can’t be in future. For example, I had a client who was raging about one of her ex-colleagues who seemed to be always at exotic conferences around the world.
She felt chained to her desk, exhausted and uninspired. She had taken to monitoring this former colleague’s activities in such detail that she could actually recount the trips to me – it was like she’d conducted a study, something I see often.
It was clear when we unpicked her thoughts that she had been completely ignoring her own wanderlust, which was why she had become triggered by and fixated on other people’s adventures. By stepping back, taking a breath and asking herself what she wanted, she was able to tune in to her inner self and silence the comparison demons.
Find the time
One of the most common things I hear clients say is that they don’t have the time to make a change. They waste their energy comparing themselves to those who carve out space to embark on projects or achieve new things.
We are all juggling multiple commitments, but there is always wiggle room. Think about where you can share responsibilities. For example, if you usually take on the planning for big family parties, remember to call in help early and often, and share the load
In doing so, you are gaining back control over your time, giving you more breathing room to actually enjoy the event and reprogramme the assumption of other family members too. Finding time for yourself doesn’t have to mean pulling out and letting everyone down.
Speaking out and becoming an advocate for yourself creates so much space. And with the opportunity to breathe, think and plan, you can move forward. The comparison trap will dissolve as the real you takes back control.