Why We Play the Comparison Game

Will I Ever Catch Up?

He put his head in his hands.  We had only just sat down in a small café. It seemed that this was one time that I should not speak, so I let the silence drift between us mixing with the steam off my coffee mug.  My friend had asked for this meeting, but I didn’t know what he wanted.  The noises all around us dimmed when he finally looked up at me and explained. “Every time I start to feel like I am about to really achieve something, I don’t know what happens. I give up.”

I was surprised. He was successful. I’m not a psychologist, but it didn’t appear he was depressed so much as needing a boost of confidence.  Our conversation continued back and forth until a theme started to emerge.

My friend consistently compared himself to others who were, in his opinion, doing better, achieving more, and advancing faster.  He didn’t feel he could “catch up” to them.  The reality, of course, was that no one expected him to “catch up.”  He was doing well.  What was his real issue?

Comparing.

Recently, I heard that only 12% of women over 50 are satisfied with their bodies.  40% of men are dissatisfied with their appearance.  And the vast majority of us would change something about our physical appearance if we could.  We compare ourselves to airbrushed models and feel less attractive.

Why are we so discontent? Why do we unfairly compare ourselves to others?

There’s always someone richer, stronger, faster, smarter, or more talented, more polite, or more attractive. There are likely also people poorer, weaker, slower, less intelligent, with less talent, manners, and looks. Comparing ourselves to others can be debilitating in more ways than we realize.

 

“Leaders do not define success by the competition.” -Skip Prichard

 

Don’t Compare Up

When we look at someone else who has what we don’t have, we are “comparing up.” What does this do?  It robs us of joy.  It depresses us.  It makes us feel bad about ourselves, lowers our self-esteem. We may give up on our goals, thinking “Well, I could never compare to him” or “If she is that good, why should I even bother?”  We become less productive.  It slows us down.  We spend so much time comparing that we find we aren’t doing.  It invites envy, the insidious emotion, to a prominent place at the table of our mind.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt

 

Don’t Compare Down

There are times we “compare down.”  We look at someone and feel sorry for him.  We hear about someone and think she doesn’t have what I have.  Whether it makes us feel better or superior, we have all had moments where we look at someone else as not as good as we are. While we pat ourselves on the back for being so brilliant, we actually are filling our mind with a cancerous attitude.  Arrogance creeps quietly into the room of our mind, an unnoticed intruder taking over.

 

“We’d achieve more if we chased our dreams instead of our competition.” -Simon Sinek

 

Shift the Focus

Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed

Getting Stronger

What happens when you get a stress management expert, a successful entrepreneur, and a Navy SEAL together to write a book? You end up with Stronger: Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed, a powerful new resource that will help you better thrive under pressure. The three authors have such varied experience that, when combined, works magnificently. The result is a powerful book that will help you not only understand resilience but learn how to build it for yourself.

Two of the authors, George Everly and Dennis McCormack, collaborated to answer some of my questions and to give you a glimpse into the power of resilience. Dr. Everly is one of the founding fathers of modern stress management. He teaches at Johns Hopkins and Loyola University of Maryland. Dennis McCormack is one of the original Navy SEALS. He pioneered SEAL combat doctrine and tactics in Vietnam.

 

“Resilience is the ability to personally rebound from adversity.”

 

The Single Most Powerful Factor to Your Potential 

You call personal resilience the single most powerful factor to realize your potential. Is resilience something you are born with or can develop?

While for some, resilience may be a trait they are born with, for most of us resilience is learned…and that’s the great news! Recent research suggests that it is NOT age dependent either. So we can learn to be resilient at ANY age.

 

“Optimism is more than a belief, it’s a mandate for change.”

 

5 Factors of Personal Resilience

You reference 5 factors of personal resilience. The first is active optimism. What’s the difference between active and passive optimism? How do you increase it?

Great question. People who are passively optimistic believe things will turn out well, but they wait for such things to occur. Actively optimistic people believe things will turn out well because they are decisive and action-oriented. In short, they MAKE things turn out well. They take advantage of the self-fulfilling prophecy effect. When they fail, they see that failure as a temporary setback. Regarding the issue of leadership, whom would you rather follow, someone who waits for good things to happen, or someone who makes good things happen?

As for increasing active optimism, both in yourself and others, follow this principle: Active optimism is fostered in an environment which is supportive, instructive, and forgiving; one that sees failure as a stepping stone to success.

Avoid toxic devaluing environments. When failure does occur, and it will, understand failure is what you did, not who you are. Learn from it. You will be stronger next time!

 

“The optimist always has the capacity to look forward to another day.”

 

5 Core Factors of Personal Resilience

  1. Help people withstand adversity.
  2. Help people make good decisions under pressure.
  3. Motivate people to achieve peak performance.
  4. Allow people to bounce back quickly and effectively even when they are temporarily knocked down.
  5. Serve as important features in determining satisfaction in life and overall happiness.

 

3 Steps to Manage Impulsive Urges