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  • Judy Sims

How to Break Free of The Comparison Trap

The comparison trap

I had lunch with a very successful woman this week. Let’s call her Natalie. Natalie is the founder of a consulting business. She has a fantastic co-founder, a team of 5 bright employees, and a very impressive client roster.

But last year was tough. For a few months, new business just wasn’t coming in. Natalie told me she was convinced hers was the only company in the world that was experiencing economic challenges. And no wonder – when she looked at LinkedIn, everyone was “thrilled to announce” their latest business success. When she spoke to other small business owners, they all said things were great, never better, or at worst, business as usual. In the harsh glare of the success of others, Natalie felt terrible about herself. Why was everyone else doing so well, when she wasn’t?

Natalie was caught in the comparison trap.

This year has proven to be a whole other story for Natalie. Business is great. And now, in hindsight, she realizes that all businesses have good years and tough years. It's just the way it goes. She also realizes that she wasted a lot of time and energy comparing herself to others. Time and energy that would have been better spent working on her business, or spending time with her family, or taking care of herself.

We all do it. Scrolling through social media, we're bombarded with images of seemingly perfect lives. That friend vacationing in Bali. The colleague landing their dream promotion. It's easy to fall into the comparison trap, feeling inadequate and questioning our own paths. But here's the truth: this constant comparison is a happiness thief. It's time to break free and embrace your unique journey.

How We Fall into the Comparison Trap

Our brains are wired for social comparison. It's a primal instinct, helping us gauge our standing within the group. But in today's hyper-connected world, this instinct goes into overdrive. Social media portrays a curated highlight reel, not the full picture. We compare our messy middle to someone else's best moments, leading to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

Shift Your Focus. Live Your Life.

The key to breaking free of the comparison trap is a conscious shift in focus. Here are some actionable steps:

  1. Catch Yourself in the Act: The first step is awareness. Notice when you start comparing yourself to others. Are you feeling a pang of envy on Instagram? A wave of self-doubt after a colleague's presentation? Acknowledge the feeling without judgment.

  2. Challenge the Comparison: Don't accept the negative thoughts at face value. Ask yourself: Is this person's success really a reflection of my worth? What's the story behind the highlight reel? Chances are, their journey wasn't all sunshine and roses.

  3. Celebrate Your Wins (Big and Small): We often downplay our accomplishments. Keep a gratitude journal and write down three things you're grateful for each day. Did you finally master that challenging yoga pose? Did you receive positive feedback at work? Celebrate these wins, no matter how small.

  4. Focus on Your Strengths: We all have unique talents and skills. Take some time to identify yours. What are you naturally good at? What activities bring you joy? When you focus on your strengths, you build confidence and self-worth.

  5. Find Inspiration, Not Intimidation: Instead of comparing, seek inspiration from others. See their success as a roadmap, not a competition. What can you learn from their journey? How can you apply their strategies in your own unique way?

  6. Cultivate Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you'd offer a friend. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes, and that's okay. Learn from them, forgive yourself, and move forward.

  7. Curate Your Social Media Feed: Social media can be a breeding ground for comparison. Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. Instead, follow people who inspire and uplift you.


Remember, You Are on Your Own Path

Life isn't a race. Everyone has their own unique timeline and goals. Embrace your journey, with all its twists and turns. Celebrate your individuality and the things that make you, you. By breaking free from the comparison trap, you open yourself up to a world of possibility and self-acceptance. You are worthy, just as you are.

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