Why comparing yourself to others is the most toxic behavior

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Comparison is an ugly disease that will eat away at you.

It will make you believe you’re not good enough. It will make you believe what you’re doing isn’t enough. And it will make you believe you don’t matter . . . until not just your head believes
it, but your heart too.

This is a new year, and naturally, with a new year comes new habits and goals. Comparison is one of those “habits” I want to urge you to break in 2020.

You’re going to replace that bad habit with a new mindset. One where you take all of the energy and focus you put on the people around you, and instead, put it on yourself.

Why You Shouldn’t Compare Yourselves to Others

The only way to get out of a pattern of unhealthy comparison is to strictly focus on the you of yesterday—the you you were last week, last month and last year. That’s the only kind of comparison you should engage in. Why? Because it’s the only way to have healthy and sustainable growth in your life.

Here’s what I mean by that: When you compare yourself to someone else, you’re measuring yourself against a standard that isn’t realistic because your circumstances and that person’s circumstances are different.

You don’t have the same upbringing as that person, the same amount of money, the same family dynamics, the same education or experience—the list can go on. The bottom line is, it’s not a fair comparison. There are many factors that make your situations too different to compare.

On the flip side, when you compare yourself to the you of yesterday, it’s a healthy comparison because you’re measuring the same person with the same circumstances, and you know the potential to be a better you is there. It becomes about who you were and where you were—and not about anyone else.

This is a sustainable type of comparison because you’ll always find realistic room for improvement. See, when you compare yourself to someone who is ahead of you, it leaves you frustrated and disappointed. And what happens when you’re frustrated and disappointed? You want to quit. That’s not sustainable!

But when you focus on the you of yesterday, it breeds confidence because you know you can do better than you did yesterday. And you know you can improve in this or that area. The best part is: Competing with yourself leads to a habit of growth and lifelong learning.

How to Compare Yourself to the You of Yesterday

So, how can you set goals for this new year that are a reflection of who you were yesterday and how you want to grow in the future? (Remember, these goals are not a reflection of what everyone else is doing.)

You can ask three specific questions in both your professional and personal life. I love these questions because they’re you focused versus others focused. Let’s break them down:

1. Where am I now?

Begin the process of healthy comparison (which leads to growth) by reflecting on where you are today—and remember, you can apply these questions to any area of your life.

  • What progress did you make in your career last year that you’re proud of?
  • What area of your life did you neglect?
  • Where do you still have room for improvement?
  • What do you love about your life right now and what are you not excited about?

Here’s an example of what this thought process could look like:

Today, I have a blog where I write regularly. I’m proud that I finally launched it in 2019, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. My blog took up a lot of my free time last year which meant I didn’t exercise as regularly as I would like to. I want that to change this year. I want to get healthy again and make exercising a priority without it affecting my passion project.

That’s an example of establishing where you are today, what you’re proud of, and what you need to work on. Once you’ve answered this question about the present, you can move on to the future.

2. Where do I want to be?

When you know where you are today, you can compare that version of you to the you of the future—the you you want to become.

So what do you want for the future you?

  • Do you want to make more money?
  • Do you want to develop a new skill or gain experience in a different industry?
  • Do you want to increase your influence and responsibility at your job?
  • Do you want to lose weight?
  • Do you want to finally launch a business?
  • Do you want a stronger marriage?

When you determine what you want to be different about the future you, you can set goals that actually move you to action—which is where question three comes in . . .

3. What do I need to do to get there?

It’s hard to imagine a future, better you without also thinking about what it would take to get there. That’s because visualizing a desired future excites, inspires and motivates
you to make some changes.

So once you know what you want the future you to look like, make a list of the specific steps you need to take so that future you becomes a reality.

  • If you want a stronger marriage, add more date nights to your list of steps needed to get to your desired future.
  • If you want to get out of debt, you might include enrolling in a Financial Peace University class.
  • If you want this to be the year you step into a leadership role at your job, write down ways you can increase your influence and take on more responsibility.

The different paths to getting to your desired future easily become goals that are realistic and truly something you want, not what you think you should want because you’re comparing yourself to someone else.

Folks, this is the three-question process of measuring you against you, and that’s the only kind of comparison you want in your life.

You can’t become the future you if you’re too consumed by what others are doing. Every one of us has different resources and circumstances, so comparing yourself to someone else’s success isn’t a fair benchmark.

On the other hand, comparing yourself to the you of yesterday is not only fair, but it’s also healthy, sustainable and realistic because it’s based on your reality, not someone else’s.

Stay focused on your journey and don’t try to be the wrong person—just be you.

Ken Coleman is a #1 national best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio host of The Ken Coleman Show.