One of my most interesting realizations recently is that I am at my best when I’m living in the present moment and I am at my worst when I’m comparing myself.
I’ve been doing specific contemplative meditations on comparison to learn more because it’s part of being human to compare ourselves to others. The human mind compares so it can make predictions about the future. It can be a positive thing, but it can also be detrimental to happiness and lack of fulfillment.
Comparing without awareness behind it leads to feeling like we are not enough.
Even comparing ourselves to a previous version of ourselves can become a problem if it is unrealistic and/or we have different inputs to our lives.
An easy example of how we compare is how we often compare a present experience with a former experience and then feel dissatisfied with how or where we are now. This can be something like comparing your fitness now to where you were when you could train more or had more energy. I struggle with this one because as a mom of 2 little children and the childcare available to us, I simply cannot train the way I used to and I have less energy. I also cannot work in the same way. It’s not good or bad, it’s just how things are- and I am accepting it. This could be comparing the town you moved to where you used to live. This could be comparing yourself to an ideal of what you think someone else is doing.
Comparing takes us out of the present moment because we think about what we were or could be compared to something else in the past or in the future.
Meditation instructor Jeff Warren suggests that “the antidote to the comparing mind is being truly in the now.” It’s realizing you are doing it and then coming back to an anchor in the present moment. There is also a deep form of acceptance built in- accepting yourself for who you are right now but it’s okay to also have optimism and a growth mindset that you can improve.
Jeff says, “We tend to compare ourselves most when we don’t feel like we are enough. We sometimes miss the value of what’s right in front of us. That’s one of the ways, we find fulfillment- by wanting what we actually have.”
Ask yourself, “what if this exact experience were exactly right? How does having this attitude change things?” What we have right now is actually the reality. It’s what is actually happening right now. Being able to sit with that, even if it’s for a few moments matters.
Jeff Warren offers the mantra:.“This moment right now is exactly right.”
I also find that comparison rears its ugly head more when I am online. Growing up, we only had the people in our school or on our block to compare ourselves to. Now, we can pick up our phone or hop on our computer and suddenly there are an unlimited amount of comparisons we either consciously or subconsciously take in. Spending time in person can help you feel more grounded as well.
Thinking big picture and taking yourself out of the narrow lane of focus with the thing you’re comparing is helpful to. I love my racer friends and I’ve also noticed some of my closest friendships over the years have not been with people who race mountain bikes. I enjoy the big picture and the breadth that having people around me that have different proclivities than me.
- Enroll in my Moxy & Grit Mindset Academy
- Dr Jud Brewer Podcast Episodes (Habit loops): The Craving Mind & Unwinding Anxiety
- Check out my newsletter for productivity, mindset, and mental skills
- Read my article/podcast Mental Skills for Athletes