Do you ever find your mind drawing comparisons between yourself and your peer, your friend, your family member, or even a complete stranger?
Sometimes, you might even compare your relationship to the relationships of people around you.
Especially in this age of social media and technology, we are constantly exposed to “data” about other people, so it’s nearly impossible to avoid looking at this data and thinking about how our own lives look in comparison.
Comparison is a harmful trap.
When we compare ourselves to others, we tend to fall short. This is because the “data” we often use to make the comparison is really selective. We see the “highlight reels” of other people’s lives, rather than the whole picture.
We see the cute Instagram picture of a smiling couple with a loving caption, the Facebook status update announcing a new home, a promotion at work, a baby on the way, a new car, all the happy things. What we don’t often see is the real life stuff in between all those successes. The hard times, the bad days, the stressful, messy moments.
It’s not just through social media that this happens. Sometimes, when we interact with people out in public, we may find ourselves focusing on the best features of that person, and then comparing ourselves to those.
So, of course it makes sense that when you look at all those happy moments and all those great features, you say to yourself, “My life doesn’t look like that at all.”
The thing is, when you keep making these comparisons over and over again and fall short every time, you start to think, “If I am not like so-and-so, I must not be successful”, “I must not be happy”, or “I must not be (fill in the blank)”. You start having trouble recognizing your own successes, achievements, and features, because you are so focused on the ones you lack.
When this happens, your relationship falls into the trap too. You start focusing on the things your relationship and your partner might lack as well.
You find yourself holding the relationship to expectations that are unrealistic, and you start seeing only the negative qualities of your partner rather than the things you love about them. You might even find yourself wanting your partner to succeed just so you can look better.
Your partner might start feeling like nothing they do is good enough for you. You might begin to think, “If this relationship isn’t like X and Y’s, it must not be meant to be”.
See how dangerous this trap can become?
It’s so important to have self-compassion. You are not perfect, and that’s okay. You might not have the same kind of success or the same great features as another person, but the achievements and qualities you do have are valuable too.
Your relationship, like every relationship, is imperfect too. It can be messy, complicated, and stressful. Your partner’s imperfections, like yours, make them human. Embrace your partner for all that they are, and don’t focus on the things they are not.
Have compassion for all the parts of your life: the good, the bad and the ugly.
When you see a friend, peer, or stranger and your mind points out their successes or good features, notice if any feelings of envy or jealousy come up. Gently tell those feelings that they aren’t necessary. You don’t need to put yourself down. You can have peace and contentment with who you are and where you are in life. You can celebrate your own successes and achievements and those of others.
If you can do this, you will find the happiness that you were looking for. It was right there in front of you the whole time.
If you’d like to learn more about the Comparison Trap and how not to fall into it, click here.
Photo by Ibrahim Boran on Unsplash