Ever wonder why our mind occupy us with comparison to other people? Sometimes you think that the body you want is out of your reach? That you are not healthy or strong or fit enough? Does the thought of why other people are more “successful” than I sounds familiar?
Tosh - India 2018 - Wondering
I believe we all know that feeling, it’s even very natural since we all start with it at a young age. And even if it’s not comparing at the beginning, our great strength is the ability to copy – to watch people, animals and learn behaviors. It is one of the major abilities that helped us to become who we are today as a species. To dominate the planet!
But this ability comes with great price – deep inside, with time, instead only learning and implementing what we saw – we start comparing ourselves with others, and for some reason, it never stops.
We all start with a good intention – I want a body like that! But with time we become even more depressed about it, even if we made some progress.
For some people, it’s never enough.
Let’s take Steve (fictional character)for example, Steve lost 15 Kg(33lb) in 7 months. Now without his beer belly – he was happy for a while, all his family and friends thought he looks great. Yet Steve now wanted a six-pack, like most of the guys in his gym, and he noticed that he was eyeing them and comparing his belly to theirs, sometimes to a point that he didn’t felt comfortable with his body.
No matter how lean he became, there was always someone “better” to compare himself to.
Sounds familiar? It sure does for me – I remember my journey of learning how to play the drums. I used to watch other drummers play and get so discouraged that I’m not on their level that I just wanted to throw the drumkit out of the window.
No matter where you are on your journey, personal, fitness or career, it is very common to feel like:
You’re never quite where you want to be.
Everyone else is doing better than you.
Even your best effort just isn’t “good” enough.
Being stuck with these feeling can be very frustrating – but guess what, everybody is doing it.
As I wrote at the beginning – it’s in our nature.
THE THEORY BEHIND COMPARISON
In 1954 social psychologist Leon Festinger proposed the term – social comparison theory. The main idea behind the theory: To measure our “success” in any given area of life—career, fitness, personal life, and yes, you guessed right, our appearance—we look to people around us for points of reference.
We compare ourselves to our “relevant peer group”. This group is made up of people we perceive to be around our same level in any given attribute, or people that we are connected with – family, friends, co-workers.
This wouldn’t be a big deal 70 years ago, as the number of people and information you were exposed was very low. But living in 2019, it becomes pretty saturated.
Celebrities can become unintentionally our “peers”, we don’t know them personally – but we are updated on everything that is happening in their life, to a point that we think we know them! We are constantly bombarded with pictures and posts of “happy” and “successful” people, CEO’s getting investments, men driving luxury cars, pairs on their romantic cruise – I don’t need to mention that all of them have abs and stunning bodies, right?
So what is wrong with this? If comparing ourselves to others is part of our nature – how can we ever feel good about ourselves?
I’ll list 3 ways that can help you turn this natural habit around before it gets out of the control because of our social media addiction – no, you don’t need to delete your Instagram(;
1. CONCENTRATE ON ACTIONS , NOT END-RESULTS
No matter what is your goal, break it down to daily actions that will help you achieve it. For example, if you want to lose weight – don’t write your goal simply as “lose weight” or “lose 15 pounds in the next 3 months”, for some people even writing the amount won’t help and can rather be unpleasant. Especially when you notice that you are about to miss the deadline – then the goal just bums us out.
Rather than focusing on the end-result, and thus comparing to someone(real or not) – create habits-based goals.
This actions(habits) can be something like – eat lean protein daily, exercise for 30 minutes, don’t eat sweets, etc.
These actions, done consistently, are examples of how you lose fat. They’re under your control, every day!
This mindset will eventually help you acknowledge success, rather than thinking of how long is the journey until you reach your end result.
2. ELIMINATE YOUR COMPARISON TRIGGERS
I’ve recently joined a Jiu-Jitsu class. People that train there come from different backgrounds and age. It was very natural to start comparing myself with others – I was looking at all blue and brown belts with awe but also with a little jealousy. But then it struck my mind – I didn’t come here to train to become elite MMA fighter, nor I want to become an elite Black belt. So why even bother myself comparing, rather I should enjoy the gym for the reason I joined – to get better, to be active and to participate in an activity that I find interesting.
Whenever you feel not “good” enough because of some comparison – ask yourself what are the triggers for it. Most likely you are comparing yourself for a wrong reason.
3. REVAMP YOUR NETWORKS
This one is going to be a little tough- but you have no idea how impactful it is.
Go online on all your social media accounts – look through your friends and “following” list, and ask yourself a really important question – what benefit do I get from following them? Do they bring me joy? Inspiration? Motivation? If you answered no – then it’s time to say bye-bye.
We spend a lot of time with our social media apps – it will be wise to transform that place to something meaningful and empowering rather than something that is draining our powers and attention.
I would even suggest going as far as doing it in real life – remove people that have a negative effect on you.
Our ability to withhold meaningful relationships is limited to around 100 people, so choose them wisely! One of the reasons that I like my small Twitter account is that I follow only people(famous and not) that bring some benefit to my life – whether its information on topics that interest men, motivate me, or bring me joy.
There will always be someone better, faster, stronger, leaner, etc.
Every MMA champion knows that there will come a kid that has better technique, better kicks or just better wits.
Instead of focusing on what others around you are doing, focus on yourself. Build your own system and habits. Seek out meaningful connections, mentors, role models and people that will lift you up, support (big shout out to Ximenes BJJ) and help you in your progress.
And remember, that the only person you should compare yourself to – is YOU!
“Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today” – Jordan Peterson