Escaping the Comparison Trap
Updated: Mar 17, 2020
I've been struggling a lot lately with comparing myself (who I am, how I look, etc.) and where I'm at (career-wise, financially, etc.) to people whose lives are so completely different from mine. Comparison can often be a good thing because it allows you to see areas in your own life that you might want to grow or develop in, or areas that you can look to others for inspiration in. If taken too far though, comparison can be toxic and destructive.
Unhealthy comparison feeds a lie within us that we are inadequate, and that we don't deserve to be happy or successful or good at anything. It tells us that everybody else is better looking, more skilled, harder working and more advantaged than we are and so if taken seriously it can lead us into complete inactivity and apathy.
I personally struggle with the fact that I am shorter than I'd like to be, that whether I like it or not, there is a stigma attached to my skin colour that has and will make it harder for me to be taken seriously in the music industry. I struggle with the fact that I was raised in a low-income situation that has prevented me from having the finances to pursue music earlier on in my life, and I struggle with the fact that the majority of my ethnic community is strongly oppositional to my pursuit of a career in music.
These realities have made me want to rethink my career path several times. I envied people who didn't have to go through the struggles that I face every day, and comparing my story to theirs made me feel as though I was severely disadvantaged, when in reality, my mindset was the only real thing holding me back. Yes, I do face opposition from the world around me and the circumstances that I've inherited, but I've come to learn that most things can be overcome if your self-talk becomes more encouraging.
What you can do
It's so easy to get caught up in what we can't do and what challenges will keep us from fighting our battles, but getting into the habit of calling to mind your many advantages will certainly help reframe your perspective. It's almost like practicing gratitude, but a little more specific. This is how you do it:
1. Make a list of the things that you CAN do:
- You might not be the greatest in the entire world at something, but if you're above average, that is still huge. Make a plan for how to get even better. Are you a musician wanting to tour the world someday? Then practice the hell out of your set and make sure you can wow an audience every time. This is something you CAN do.
2. Look at the world around you to gain perspective
Chances are, if you're reading this email you have access to a lot more than the majority of the world does. This might seem obvious, but it's something that has seriously helped me to be more grateful for where I am. We have access to opportunities that most of the world could only dream of having. Yes its still hard, and there is a lot of competition, but we are still starting the race much further along the track than most people are, and that should count for something. Take advantage of your surroundings and then pay it forward.
3. Remember that your story is YOUR story, not anybody else's
Time for some tough love. Whether we like it or not, we are who we are and there is only so much we can do to change that. It's heartbreaking seeing people going to such lengths to change who they are only to end up no better (and sometimes worse) than they were before. The key to escaping the comparison trap is to first accept this fact. You are you, nobody else. Your story is unique, your experiences are unique and there is such beauty in that. Instead of trying to be somebody else, focus your time and energy on becoming the best version of who you already are. Get educated, exercise, practice your craft, but most importantly, learn to appreciate your uniqueness in this world.