Comparing Kills Your Confidence
How often do you compare yourself to others? How often do you compare yourself to a standard of how you “should be”?
This habit of comparison is incredibly common, and we all do it on a regular basis. Part of this is a result of our evolution as social primates – we have continual awareness of the group and where we fit in.
Another part of this, however, is a bad habit that continually drains our confidence and leaves us feeling inferior, inadequate, and unworthy.
Strategy 2 – Quit Playing The Comparing Game
The essence of this strategy for increasing social confidence is to choose not to indulge in comparing yourself to others so frequently.
While some comparison is natural, when we lack social confidence, we often compare ourselves all the time in a negative manner. Have you noticed that the majority of your comparisons involve the other person being evaluated at better than you?
When you see a happy couple you might think to yourself: I’m not as good as that guy, I could never have that.
When you see a man talking to an attractive woman at a bar, you might say in your mind: There’s no way I could ever do that. He’s so much more confident than I am.
How Comparing Hurts
We generally compare ourselves to others in one of two ways:
1. You compare yourself to someone else who you think is better at something than you (and therefore a better person)
2. You compare yourself to some standard of how you should be (ex. more confident, taller, stronger, etc.)
Both of these types of comparison leave us feeling inferior and unfulfilled. The reality is every person has a range of skills, qualities, and abilities.
For example, a person might be an incredible musician, a great cook, in mediocre shape, and bad with money. This is a very small list of all the areas someone might compare or rate themselves on.
When we compare ourselves against someone else, we usually compare an area we are lacking in and see how they are better than we are in that area.
We then generalize it to them as a person. Because they’re better with money, they must be more intelligent, driven, successful, and more worthy of love and respect. We ignore and minimize all the areas we are quite capable in, as well as all the areas this person might struggle in.
The truth is every person has a number of areas where they struggle, get confused easily, or otherwise aren’t their strong suits.
When we compare ourselves against an ideal image of how we “should be”, we’re in for trouble. While this may seem like the path towards self-improvement, it’s actually quite the opposite.
Karen Horney, an influential psychiatrist and thinker from the 20th century, referred to this as our idealized self. It’s essentially our perfect self we’ll never attain, but for which we continually strive.
We continually strive to be this idealized self because we believe if we actually were this person, we were this perfect, then we’d be loved, accepted, and never rejected.
Underneath this habit of comparison is the assumption that we are not enough.
This is an incredibly common belief and it’s actually The Cause of Shyness.
A powerful way to undercut self-attack and increase self-compassion is to give up the comparison game.
Whenever you notice yourself comparing yourself to others, gently remind yourself that you don’t want to indulge in this unhelpful pattern.
There are much better ways to focus your attention, learn how to improve your skills, and otherwise enjoy your life.
It can also be helpful to remind yourself that there are thousands of areas we could “rate” ourselves on. Am I comparing just one part of me and ignoring the rest? Am I completely discounting my strengths and the areas where I excel? Am I only focusing on the best and most impressive parts of this other person?
These questions can help guide your thinking away from simplistic comparisons and help you start to see yourself and the other person as more complete humans with both strengths and weaknesses.