Comparison is the thief of joy...and many other things. But before you quit reading because you’re worried it’s another pep talk about loving yourself -- let me share something that most people don’t say: we need comparison in our lives.
Comparison is actually a good thing when it’s used correctly. For example, we measure a child’s growth by comparing his height to the year before. The numbers on a scale are only useful when we compare it to previous numbers. A business evaluates its health by comparing financial numbers from quarter to quarter.
Like I said, comparison is a useful tool and measurement system -- when it is used correctly.
But comparison gets tricky when we apply it against ourselves and when we use the wrong metric for comparison. Let me explain…
Two of my very best friends (who also happen to be my business partners) are 9 and 12 years younger than me. As I’m pushing mid 40s, they’re living it up in their early to mid 30s. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be a normal point of comparison for anyone, but the three of us work in an industry where size, shape, ability and physical appearance matters (the #coldhardtruth of fitness.) As my body continues to remind me that it’s no spring chicken, I have two very able-bodied spring chickens by my side -- and occasionally I compare myself to them. When I indulge this comparison thought, it’s not long before their ability becomes the flashlight that shines on my inability. And before you know it, I’m bitter at what they can do, bitter at what I can’t -- and thus the downward spiral deepens.
All of us have fallen victim to unhealthy comparisons, and sometimes it’s so subtle that we don’t even recognize it. Social media, for example, is a breeding ground for unhealthy comparison. We're constantly scrolling through images that tempt us to compare how our bodies should look, how we should eat, what clothes we should buy, how we should parent, and how clean our homes should be. It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap with just a few swipes of your finger.
So let’s talk about how comparison should work:
Comparison should measure growth and progress. Reflect on where you’ve been, and focus on where you’re going. Our bodies are always in forward motion. Even if the number on the scale isn’t moving, progress is still happening in non-numerical ways.
Comparison should account for the good, the bad and the ugly. Here’s a pro tip: everything produces growth. The highs and lows are what has made you YOU, so celebrate it all.
Comparison should only include one person: YOU. You are the only person worth comparing yourself to because it’s the only true and accurate metric. Even the worst version of you is a necessary measurement for seeing the better or best version of you.
The next time you fall into the unhealthy comparison trap, pull out your measuring stick -- the one with your name and beautiful face on it -- and remember that the only person worth comparing yourself to is...you.
You are an overcomer.
You are made for hard things.
You have a purpose on this earth.
You are the only YOU in this world.
You have what it takes.
You have value.
You are worth it.
How’s that for a pep talk? 😉