We all tend to compare up but what would happen if we started comparing down?
If you can’t stop comparing your life with others’ - then at least do it in a way that benefits your wellbeing !!
I’ve written many posts about the power of gratitude practices and of random acts of kindness.
Both of these practices are scientifically proven to increase happiness, reduce stress & anxiety and improve general wellbeing.
But most of us don’t quite feel the motivation to give it a go, or if we do give it a go; it’s fleeting. Consistency just isn’t there.
In fact, most of us focus on things that create the exact opposite results.
We compare UP!
Wait! What do you mean by comparing up?
I’ve found lots of ‘share worthy’ memes that point to this comparing up phenomenon
I do love this - Don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20.
We all have a tendency towards this behaviour.
We see someone driving a really nice car and then look at our own less ‘fancy’ car and feel a little pang of shame, resentment, ‘less-than’ and a follow up reaction is to try to justify our own sense of lack by trash talking that other person.
‘What a jerk - thinks she’s so cool in her flashed up car’
Social media can make it even more of a trap. Seeing everyone’s amazing photos, holidays, restaurant visits, social lives, gorgeous figures, clothes, flawless skin …..
It’s a comparing up smorgasbord !!
It’s that mode where you look at other peoples AMAZING lives and then compare yourself against that unachievable standard.
Have you noticed the increasing trend in teenagers wanting to be a ‘you tuber’ as their career? They watch the you tube rich and famous and think
“that life looks way better than mine.
I want that. It looks so easy….”
That’s Comparing Up.
Another version of comparing up is to admire the ‘lucky’ people who have enjoyed overnight success.
Oh wouldn’t that be nice.
A helpful reframe is to appreciate that NO overnight success actually occurs overnight.
Usually it has taken several years to get that 1 moment that skyrockets someone to their success.
I love this Lionel Messi quote
“I start early and I stay late,
Day after day, Year after year ….
It took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success “.
Any version of comparing up has the same negative impact on your wellbeing.
It leaves you feeling ‘less-than’, like somehow you’re unlucky, like you never get the breaks, the shot, the win.
It can make you re-examine every aspect of your life through a very negatively weighted lens.
your financial situation
your health & fitness
So what’s the alternative?
The first and best alternative is to not compare at all. But that’s tricky. It’s like we are hard wired to look around and assess our value based on those around us.
(This could be a hangover from our caveman ancestors - where your very survival was dependent on remaining IN the clan. To remain you had to provide value, you had to be considered worthwhile. So highly likely there was a bit of comparing going on.
‘Oh man - Cronk caught a saber tooth tiger, and I’ve come home with 3 twigs, I’m gonna have to keep hunting ….’)
So if you can’t avoid comparing, what can you do?
Find stories, articles, videos that show you real life examples of people in similar situations to yours but way worse.
I recently saw Dr Paul Cox speaking about this at an event. He was talking about resilience and about making a decisive action to change your current situation.
(For some context, Dr Paul Cox is a psychologist who at age 18 was sent to New Zealand’s harshest maximum security mens prison for murder.
After several years of beatings and extremely tough times he made a decision to make major changes. He ended up leaving prison after serving his 20 year term, with a PHD qualification - a doctorate in psychology, no less )
He said one reason for his turning point was when he started Comparing down.
He started reading every book in the library about the worlds harshest prisons.
Reading about torture and inhumane treatment of inmates by guards and/or fellow inmates.
Seems a bit grim but actually it activates a sense of gratitude. An appreciation that,
when it feels like your life couldn’t get any worse, there are people living in way worse circumstances.
Initiating a sense of gratitude and awe is scientifically proven to improve happiness & general wellbeing, reduce stress & anxiety and increase motivation.
So comparing down is far more beneficial than the self-esteem-crushing alternative.
Give it a try. Think about the things that you tend to feel envious about.
Is it financial, or around your health / weight, or maybe your relationships, or vacations (or lack thereof)?
Take a look at stories, articles, documentaries of real life situations that are more difficult than your perceived problems and notice if you feel a sense of appreciation for the few things you DO have.
Spending time with even smatterings of appreciation for what you have can start opening your mind to new possibilities, new ideas to move ahead.
It’s much more difficult to access even the idea that there are possibilities to create new or better outcomes when you’re feeling shitty about your life because you’re comparing it with someone else’s amazing version.
Give yourself a shot - COMPARE DOWN.