We dream. We hope. We plan and we believe.
But sometimes, things just don’t go as planned or hoped for. A wrecking ball rolls your way and boom! Your life gets curved off the pathway.
You lose your job.
There is no funding for your school.
Your project hits a major roadblock.
The person you loved so dearly breaks your heart.
You lose a loved one to death.
You get a deadly illness.
Or maybe you wish:
You had better looks.
Had a better skillset.
Came from a better home setup.
A trendier wardrobe.
And the list goes on……!
Feeling down and defeated, you look around and realize the world is still moving on and it’s mostly in those low moments that we find ourselves victim to the comparison game.
Other people seem to be having it lucky in love, settling down and getting married, your friends seem to have stable and well-paying jobs, other people’s businesses and projects seem to be progressing well, your schoolmates’ education is well funded and once again the list goes on.
It’s simple but not easy.
At times, you might even see people squander or be ungrateful for the opportunities you wish you had or maybe if you’re unfortunate enough, get mocked for your situation.
You kick yourself and start to wonder what it is you did or not do to deserve what is happening to you. You question why others seem to have it easy while you have to what feels like frequently hustle? You ask when you’ll ever get a break and often these feelings of despair lead to negative and anxious thoughts that are hard to come out of (known as rumination), higher rates of anxiety and depression, overspending in effort to keep up with the Joneses as well as temptations to indulge in unethical or immoral behavior.
Thomas Mussweiler, a professor of organizational behavior, describes comparison this way: "It's one of the most basic ways we develop an understanding of who we are, what we're good at, and what we're not so good at.”
Most of the time, comparison is made in a split second in the background, and we don’t even realize it. But when we dwell on the highlights of other people’s lives, it can quickly become toxic. I have discovered there is an infinite number of categories upon which we can compare ourselves and an almost infinite number of people to compare ourselves to. And with how flooded we are by social media, it’s easier than ever to constantly find someone “better” to compare ourselves to, which only serves to make us feel bad about ourselves.
Once we begin down that road, we never find an end.
When we compare ourselves to others, we’re often comparing their best features against our average ones which is already an unfair fight and a recipe for unhappiness unless you are the best in the world. Which, let’s be honest, no one person is!
Truth is there is one thing that you’re better at than other people: being you! This is the only game you can really win.
When you start with this mindset the world starts to look better again. No longer are you focused on where you stand relative to others. Instead, your focus and energy is placed on what you’re capable of now and how you can improve yourself. Life becomes about being a better version of yourself. You become happier, free from the shackles of false comparisons and focused on the present moment.
There is one thing that you’re better at than other people: being you!
It’s simple but not easy. The comparison game is a game everyone plays every now and then. However, I can share with you some specific steps I’ve taken and principles I’ve applied to my own life to help me take my eyes off of other people and put them back on creating a life I love.
1. Practice Gratitude; it often easier to focus on what isn’t and what could be that we neglect to appreciate what is. So every morning when you wake up, list at least three things you are grateful for, even the simplest of things such as a cup of coffee in the still of the morning.
2. Unlock the power of contentment; gratitude leads to contentment, which allows you to be in a state of joy and satisfaction no matter what your circumstances. You’re happy with where you are in life and aren’t worried about what other people are doing. That doesn’t mean you don’t have goals for the future or that you aren’t working toward being a better person tomorrow than you are today. And it definitely doesn’t mean that you’re stagnant or that you’re choosing to sit around and do nothing new, exciting and challenging with your life. It just means that you develop a peace about your life and a sincere enjoyment about what you have today without basing all your happiness on what you hope to achieve tomorrow.
3. Focus on your strengths; you can be humble and still recognize your strengths, talents and accomplishments. Try writing down three things you really like about yourself - things you can identify as strengths. Don’t just write “good people skills” like you’d put on a boring resume. Make them personal!
You get one life. Play your own game.
4. Celebrate other people; constantly comparing ourselves to others leads to us not cheering on the people who are working hard to get somewhere. And it makes it hard to celebrate with the ones who’ve accomplished something!
5. Be your own comparison; Instead of focusing on where you are compared to others, focus on your own goals. Where are you compared to where you were at this time last year? Or five years ago?
6. Take a social media fast; comparison through social media can have a massive effect on our mental well-being. Being disconnected from the highlight reels of other people's lives can be really helpful in helping us feel better about ourselves and about our own lives. Without the constant distraction of notifications, you may find yourself up-leveling your time-management skills, completing work that previously felt overwhelming, suddenly having time for neglected self-care practices, and just generally finding your daily life less stressful and hectic due to the found time and focus recovered from social media use.
Thinking about what matters to you is hard. Playing to someone else’s scoreboard is easy, that’s why a lot of people do it. But winning the wrong game is pointless and empty. You get one life. Play your own game.
Kabuku C Kabwela is an embodiment of multiple skills, talents, and interests that seamlessly merge to create her life, work, and career. She is a Zambian-based trained communication and PR specialist with over 2 years working experience in marketing and Communications.
Kabuku’s skills include the ability to string words together in the art of creative direction and storytelling, data entry, ability to multi-task and prioritize projects, content creation and copywriting, basic graphic designing, photography as well as social media management to mention but a few.
Her Hobbies include; crafting, traveling, thrilling adventure, writing, reading, listening to music and watching series and movies.