Comparisons are the way we gauge where we are, and where we are supposed to be. Our peers act as markers of progress- where we should be, what we should be doing. Age can seem a big factor. I have a friend was considered a child prodigy; she was invited to Mensa, scored very well on an IQ test, went to college early and is now interning in government. We are the same age, and what have I done?
I automatically want to respond with “Nothing. You have done nothing in comparison”
The online world is a breeding ground for comparisons. It is easy to forget that we put our best appearance there, and we share only what is good and admirable about our lives. We share a small portion of us as people online, and yet I find myself viewing profiles of acquaintances and feeling inadequate. What am I doing with my life? Why can’t I have friends like so-and-so?
And how does this way of thinking benefit me- it does not. When I shut the laptop, I am comforted with nothing but failure, sadness and lack of motivation. Where can we go from here? It takes a lot of practice and a lot of patience to break these patterns. They come as second nature, an impulse, to look at the people around us and contrast their virtues with ours. Though this contrasting is nearly always skewed and we get nothing from the practice.
Sometimes the people in our lives try to motivate us using comparisons. By stating, “He really did something for his future, and he started out worse than you.” or “I wish you would be more like so-and-so” I think others say such things in a faulty attempt to motivate us. This rarely happens, and instead we become even less likely to change or grow.
There are ways of finding hope and motivation. I will share a few steps that have helped me break away from habitual patterns.
1) Unplug. This is the simplest, and often most difficult step. Does being online fuel your feelings of inadequacy? Take a week off. Only go on the computer to check emails or do research. Keep things practical. You can disable Facebook for a short while, or set up parental locks for yourself if you have trouble staying away.
2) Use this opportunity to reevaluate your situation. Major goals aside- what do you want to do. What would make your feel content. Write these aspirations down and let them sit for awhile. Make plans to change your patterns, make plans to do something out of your routine.
3) Let the people you compare yourself to become your teachers. It is said any situation has the potential of being an outlet for growth or an outlet for unchaining habits. We don’t have to aspire to be exactly like these people, but we can learn from both their their good traits and their bad.
4) Lastly: forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for comparing, forgive yourself for not being where you want to be, forgive yourself for your perceived failure. Accept things as they are, but remember that nothing stays the same. For once, do not aim to change anything. It is okay to be late, it is okay to take your time, it is okay to make mistakes. Sitting with things the way they are, sitting with your lack of direction, sitting with your perceived lack of success, just sitting with these feelings is okay too.
At times I feel like I am wasting my life. I am not out meeting fascinating people, or traveling the world, I am not doing anything noteworthy- and thats okay. I start here, where I am. I try to use these negative feelings to connect with the people around me. I go back to myself, block out the distractions, and ask: “What do I want to do next?” Be happy. There is no becoming or giving up. Just uncovering.