Breaking the Comparison Habit
I'm not here to give a diatribe against the destructive habit of comparison. It's been talked about before. We all know that we aren't supposed to compare ourselves others. We're supposed to stay in our own lanes and focus on our patch of grass ("the grass is greener where you water it" mindset). But what happens when you don't know how to stop comparing yourself to others? Unfortunately, there's no on/off switch.
If you're anything like me, then you've thought about this a lot. You know that comparison is wrong. You wish you didn't struggle with it. You would rather not spend your mental energy browsing through someone else's life thinking about how easy things are for them.
"If I had a body like ______, then life would be so more fun."
"If I was more disciplined like _______, then my life would be so much easier."
"If I had the genetic makeup like _____, then I would never struggle."
"If I were more talented like ______, then everything would come so easily."
"Why is ________ succeeding in getting healthy and I'm not?"
"How can _______ make changes and see results and I can't?"
These are real thoughts that cycle through like mental slideshow more than I'd like to admit, especially those last two.
So, how do we break it? How do we break the comparison cycle? Honestly, I don't know because it's something I struggle with daily. In the spirit of habit change, I've come up with 3 strategies to use whenever I feel comparison creeping up on me.
When I catch myself thinking, "Why is ________ succeeding in getting healthy and I'm not?" and "How can she make changes and see results and I can't?" or any other comparison thought in the bouquet, here's what I'm going to do.
Pause and Talk to Myself.
Remind myself that I am capable of doing hard things, that I am capable of implementing self-control, and that I am in control of my actions.
Personally, I like to quote/meditate on scripture. Right now, this verse helps me deal with my comparison emotions. It shifts my perspective from being the victim to using it as an opportunity to grow my faith. This verse tells me that I can give my emotions to Jesus and receive peace.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Phil 4:6-7
I can also dive deeper and ask, "Why am I responding like this? Why is comparison my immediate reaction?" The answer is always the same. I'm responding that way because I'm struggling to make the hard choices and leaning into laziness and convenience over self-discipline.
If I leave the room and distance myself from whatever is causing the comparison feelings to rise up, I'm more likely to not cave in. If I'm scrolling through social media, then I can put my phone down or close the laptop. Then, I could go for a short walk, unload or load the dishwasher, quickly tidy my house, or read a chapter of a book. Over time, I want to build the habit of quickly shutting down those feelings of comparison.
If I'm actually talking with someone when the feelings arise, then I can change the subject or end the conversation.
By changing directions whether that's literally or figuratively, I'm telling myself that I don't have to emotionally dwell on these feelings of comparison.
Gratitude brings perspective and shifts focus. When I actively think through things I'm grateful for, the emotions that comparison brings seem to melt away. I think that the gratitude piece is the most important strategy that we can implement when coming face to face with comparison.
It will take time to remember to use these strategies, but I'm confident that if I commit to practice one or all of these strategies, that my reaction time will decrease over time. Meaning, that it won't take as long to process through these feelings.
Now, I turn the question to you. Do you struggle with comparison? How do you deal with it?