Why Comparing Yourself to Others is a Losing Game

Sometimes I feel like such a loser. Okay, not the best affirmation, I know, but it’s the truth. Yesterday, while out running errands, I heard a story on NPR about a woman named Zora who, from the time she was five-years-old, had a recurring dream of becoming a superhero. This dream inspired Zora to make a list of all the skills she’d need to master in order to achieve this goal – martial arts, evasive driving, knife-throwing, bomb diffusion – so she could then go about developing each one.

Within minutes of hearing her list of accomplishments including graduating from high school at fifteen, finishing a Bachelors degree at eighteen, a Masters at twenty, and completing the coursework for a PhD in geopolitics by twenty-one, I began to feel like an underachiever. Now, I certainly have lived an incredible life and if I were to die tomorrow, I’d leave feeling at peace with what I’ve accomplished. But, I fall prey to bad habits just like everyone else. All I could think about was that I hadn’t learned how to fly a helicopter or defuse a bomb. Not to mention the fact that I don’t have a college degree.

For years I’ve compared myself to others. I’ve held up my accomplishments next to the accomplishments of my peers. I’ve measured my attractiveness against the outfit of another woman. And I’ve judged the success of a book (or the lack thereof) against the success of books written by colleagues or friends. When playing this silly game, I rarely measure up. And worse, a militant part of me attempts to use this practice as motivation, pushing me to perform, reach higher, do more, be better, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It never works.

I’ve never been motivated to do more by feeling less than. I’ve never been inspired to reach higher by putting myself in the one-down position. I’ve never, ever done my best after berating myself for not being good enough. Nope, I can’t think of a single positive thing that’s come from comparing myself to others. In this age of social media, when we’re now privy to the intimate details of people’s lives, it’s so easy to play the comparison game. But it’s a game you’ll never win.

At the end of Zora’s story, I realized I have the opportunity to become a different kind of superhero: a woman who practices loving-kindness, who reflects a kind of self-acceptance and compassion that extends out to every person I meet. There, I feel better. After all, just imagine the kind of impact you can have on the world with those skills in your superhero bag of tricks.

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Here’s one man’s path for becoming a superhero in life. It’s a little long, but really worth watching. You can see it here.

Comments

Lorelei63 4th November 2013 11:34 am

Thanks for sharing, Cheryl - this has been my particular challenge, as well. Wouldn't it be great to have a Comparison Hotline?? We could call each time we started "to go there," doing the one-down comparison thing. If anyone reads this and might be interested, perhaps we could actually create this for a while. ?? A viable idea??

Maya60 4th November 2013 4:35 pm

Thank you for this post Cheryl. I tend to do that a lot. A lot of your posts are like answers to questions I have been asking myself or issues I am facing. My soul is asking for some time off and I was feeling kind of uncomfortable being lazy and directionless. Winter is coming and I'm feeling the need to slow down.

I was sad to learn that Debbie Ford passed away. She was such a good teacher!

Light & Peace,

Maya

learningtoflow 4th November 2013 8:33 pm

Great post Cheryl. Thanks for being so emotionally honest. On this journey, I have days where I feel I can achieve or manifest anything and then in the next moment, feel like I can't do anything right or create what I really want.
This is a good message coming to me at the right time.

Thanks for sharing it.

Namaste
Jeff

blj 4th November 2013 9:25 pm

Honesty is always so refreshing, it connects us all. illusion is a funny thing that make everyone elses grass seem greener....love the fact that you brought it full circle by appreciating your unique gifts.

withlove 6th November 2013 7:44 am

Thank you for sharing so honestly. In the name of 'Progress', people around me aspire to have more to "Show for it" and berate others for not having things to "Show" for their life, like degrees, belongings & titles. While achievements should be celebrated, when used to belittle others (seperate us), they reveal fears of being 'not good enough'.

It is so wonderful to be part of a community who value being authentic, Love and connecting us.

Thanks Blj, for your beautiful perspective on connection & seperation.

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Author Information

Cheryl Richardson

Cheryl Richardson is the author of The New York Times bestselling books, Take Time for Your Life, Life Makeovers, Stand Up for Your Life, The Unmistakable Touch of Grace and her new book The Art of Extreme Self Care. She was the first president of the International Coach Federation and holds one of their first Master Certified Coach credentials.

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