I’ve written about how to stop comparing yourself a few times here on the blog but today I wanted to look at the flip side of comparing – when you are being compared to someone else.
What do I mean by that?
Well anyone who has ever been told – ‘Why can’t you be more like (insert name here)’? will immediately understand what I’m talking about.
It might be your parents comparing you to another sibling or family member, your teacher comparing you to another student or your boss comparing you to a staff member. It could be a friend doing the comparing. It could even be your partner comparing you to one of their ex’s.
Being compared to other people doesn’t feel great. No one wants to feel like who they are isn’t enough.
No one wants to feel like someone wants them to be someone else.
Yet comparison exists and we need to be able to deal with it.
Here are my thoughts on being compared to other people. Not all of them will be relevant to your particular situation, so figure out which ones work best for you and go from there.
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(Important note – I am not a medical professional, if you are struggling with depression, anxiety or suspect you have a mental illness, please seek help from a professional).
Be aware of when you are feeling compared
The first step is awareness.
What you don’t want is to be walking around angry or upset when you don’t know what the hell is bugging you.
Be aware of when being compared to someone else bothers you.
You may be getting upset without understanding why.
Be aware of how it makes you feel
Address your feelings. Be aware of how you are feeling.
Are you upset, angry, disappointed, sad or slightly miffed?
For me personally, I always find that addressing and owning my feelings helps me. What doesn’t help is denying or hiding from them. I find that if I try to hide from my feelings, they have a way of rising up to bite me later! (I find I get snappy when trying to push down my feelings.)
Now before you starting thinking dealing with feelings sounds like a lot of effort, bear in mind that this isn’t always some big long drawn out process! Once you get better at dealing with and processing your feelings, it can happen fairly quickly.
Face your feelings head on.
Related post – You Are Enough
Know your comparison triggers
As mentioned in an earlier post, it helps to know your trigger words so that you can effectively deal with them.
The same can go for comparisons. A particular comparison from a particular person can trigger an emotional reaction.
If someone at work say you should act more like someone in a similar role, you might easily just shrug it off as their opinion and it might have no affect on you whatsoever.
Whereas if a parent tells you something similar, it can trigger a completely different response.
Know what your comparison triggers are and who is involved in triggering them.
Related post – Know Your Triggers and How to Deal with Them
Understand it’s about who is doing the comparing
As mentioned above who is doing the comparing is a big factor. A comparison from one person might not mean anything compared to one from someone else.
Being compared to siblings is a common form of comparison.
Either one or both parents is comparing siblings to each other or one of the siblings is doing the comparing.
I’ve seen a lot of family angst over this one. A sister who has been told repeatedly through her life that she should be more like her prettier, friendlier sister. A family member who was told she wasn’t as smart of her older sibling.
And that’s before we start messing with the whole ‘who’s the favorite’ debacle. I’ve seen family members get bent out of shape because someone else is the favorite (or at least perceived as the favorite).
Personally, I can’t relate to playing favorites. Growing up it seemed my brother and I were both in the doghouse most of the time, so there didn’t seem to be a favorite!
Though you may have struggled with sibling rivalry and been compared to a sibling growing up, as an adult (and this post is aimed at adults not children) then you are now in the driver’s seat. You are in control of your own life.
In the beginning of this post, I mentioned some examples of who might be comparing you. One of those examples was a partner comparing you to an ex. If this is happening, I suggest you take a long hard look at your relationship. Most likely if they are treating you like this, there are bound to be a lot more problems in the relationship and if that’s the case it might be time to run for the hills.
Understand you are in control of your thoughts and actions
When it all comes down to it we can’t control what other people say or do but we can control our own actions.
I’m currently about half way through an excellent online course How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence by the awesome and inspiring Mel Robbins.
Mel talks about how it’s completely normal for feelings to rise up. In many situations, feelings are a normal physical reaction.
What’s important to know and remember is that while we may feel the feelings, the actions we take in regards to those feelings is what matters.
You might not be able to control your initial feelings but you can control your behavior, thoughts and actions.
Your behavior and thoughts are a choice.
I highly recommend taking Mel’s online course. I’ve learnt so much already (and have started applying what I’ve learnt). I know this course will help me going forward and I think it could empower you as well).
Be aware of sneaky comparisons
I’ve experienced a fair bit of what I would call sneaky comparisons.
So what do I mean by that?
I’m talking about when the comparison isn’t direct but you know it’s definitely there.
It’s where a person constantly talks about how great someone else is (this is generally followed by criticism in your direction, possibly even related to the same topic). It’s normally not a one time thing. It’s consistent. A bit here and a bit there about how such and such has a great job/gorgeous house/visits their family often/takes care of their family/insert other options here.
This can be a common one from parents.
One of my parents did this a lot when I was growing up. Someone else’s child was always the flavour of the month (or year). I won’t lie it used to hurt a lot. I took it very personally.
Now it just bounces off me.
One important point to make here is that sometimes sneaky comparisons aren’t about comparisons – they are about guilt.
If someone is trying to make us feel guilty for something it can sound like a comparison. What it really is – is a guilt trip.
Related post – Stop Using Guilt to Get What You Want
Ask yourself if you are overacting
With all the comparisons, triggers and sneaky comparisons going on I thought it was important to throw this question out there.
Could you be overacting?
Is there a chance it wasn’t as bad as you first thought?
I’ll use myself as an example here. I’m a sensitive person. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with this, in fact I’m proud to say I am a sensitive person. Being sensitive makes be a better friend, better family member and kinder to the people and animals around me.
But it can also sometimes mean that I might initially overreact in certain situations. I’m aware of this and factor it into my thought process. I’m a person who thinks things over, processes them in my head, then moves on.
Sometimes a comparison might not be a comparison at all and it’s not quite as bad as we thought.
I know this might sound a bit simplistic but sometimes we need to remember that people forget who they are talking to. This often isn’t out of malice, people talk from their life perspective and forget the life situation of the person they are talking to.
Ask yourself – is it important?
As I’ve gotten older one of the things I have gotten much, much better at is not worrying about what’s not important.
The stuff that I worried about years ago doesn’t even make it on my radar now. In the whole scheme of things, I have much more important things to focus on or worry about.
I’m sure you have as well so put worrying about people comparing you to others in the trash where it belongs and get on with what is really important to you.
Reading the book, ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k’ really helped me in this regard – I highly recommend it. (You probably worked it out from the titles, but both of the below books contain swearing so proceed at your own risk if you don’t like cussing).
Speak to them and ask them to stop
If a friend or family member is directly telling you that you need to be more like someone else, than you should be upfront and speak to them about it.
Let me be clear on this one though.
This needs to be a calm, rational and preferably brief conversation.
This is not a conversation to have when you are angry or upset. Calm down first. Check if the other person is calm as well.
This isn’t an opportunity to rattle off every comparison they have ever said to you. This isn’t the time to bring up all of the things they have done wrong or dig up unrelated dirt. Trust me, I have had those sorts of conversations and they never end well.
More to the point, those types of conversations won’t get the result or outcome you want.
This isn’t an attack, it’s a conversation where you express your feelings and let them know that their behavior is upsetting and you would like them to please stop.
Heads up – you might have to have this conversation more than once.
Each time they continue to directly compare you, you will need to advise them that it’s not acceptable. Yes, it can be exhausting and draining saying the same thing over and over again. And yes you are going to have to try to be as calm as possible when you say it (not an easy task I realize).
If they won’t stop, then you need to make a decision on your next move. If you are going to be around this person a lot, I suggest looking into one or more of the coping mechanisms in this article.
Related post – How to Have Those Hard Conversations
Understand the difference between comparison and competition
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that we live in a competitive world.
We compete at school, in sports, to get a job, at work and a whole bunch of other places. It’s a part of life.
I know some people are super competitive (regardless of whether they are running a marathon or completing in a three-legged race at the office Christmas party), whereas others (like me) are more busy competing with ourselves and trying to improve on our personal best (regardless of what everyone else is doing).
Either way is fine as long as it makes you happy.
There is a difference between competition and comparison. Just because you are competing to get the most sales for the month at work doesn’t mean your boss is comparing you.
Don’t care what people say
I know this one is hard but sometimes we just have to not care what people say or think and that applies to people close to us like family.
Put it this way – they are entitled to their opinion and you are entitled to ignore their opinion.
Just because someone we care about says something doesn’t mean we have to take it on board. We can still love and care about them, without taking all of their opinions on board.
Because someone says something certainly does not mean it’s true.
It doesn’t mean we are doing anything wrong.
Obviously if you are going out of your way to purposely hurt someone than that is a different story. Ditto if you are doing anything illegal. You shouldn’t be trying to hurt people.
If you are just living your life to your values and beliefs and someone doesn’t agree with your values and beliefs than that is their issue – not yours.
Don’t hurt people by doing the same thing
We might not like to admit this but sometimes when we feel hurt by people we can sometimes try to get back at them in the same way.
We can sometimes treat people the same way they are treating us or we might even treat other people (unrelated to the situation) like we are being treated.
Don’t make this mistake. If you grew up being compared to your siblings, make sure you are not doing the same to your children.
Work on your self-worth
Instead of worrying about what other people are saying, focus on what you are saying to yourself.
Focus on building up your self-esteem and self-worth.
It’s a lot harder to be affected by comparison from an external source when you have a rock solid internal source that believes in yourself.
Related post – Know Your Own Worth
Be yourself and forge your own path
When it all comes down to it, this is about being yourself.
It’s about loving and accepting yourself and not being bogged down by what people think of you.
Believe in yourself, believe in your individuality and the path that you are on. Don’t let people comparing you stand in your way. You are much too powerful for that!
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