My entire life I’ve been comparing myself to others. In college and high school I was constantly judging my value based on my peers’ value. I put so much thought into how people around me were doing in their lives and everything they had rather than focusing on how I was doing and what I had. This type of thinking didn’t get addressed until much later and led to some serious thought distortions – I’m a failure, I haven’t accomplished enough, I won’t amount to anything. This thought process has contributed to my anxiety. And in some cases, it has been the cause of it.
I’ll be completely honest, I’ve been doing it to this day. When I compare myself to someone else, all of a sudden, I feel like there’s something missing in my life – a more fulfilling career, a better car, nicer clothes, a thinner body, etc. And unless I address it right away, my life won’t have value without that thing. I see people my age who have established careers and seem to have a sense of purpose, while I feel totally lost. Or I’ll see someone wearing a nice dress or pair of shoes and I’ll think, “why can’t I have that dress?” or, “why don’t I have shoes that nice?”
So I’ve started practicing gratitude by writing down three things I’m thankful for every day, per my therapist’s suggestion. It felt cheesy at first. But after the first few times, it really got me thinking about the things I do have in my life. And it made me realize that I really do have a lot to be thankful for.
When I started the gratitude practice, one of the first things I wrote about was running. Every time I would go for a run, I saw people who were running faster than me, were more athletic, in better shape, etc. I would compare myself to them and immediately feel incredibly discouraged. When I had started running last December, I hadn’t exercised in over a year, had just quit smoking, and didn’t even have good sneakers. I could barely run for 30 seconds. Now, I’m training for a 5K. My thinking changed from comparing myself to others’ abilities to recognizing my own progress over time and feeling proud of myself.
Whenever I start panicking over something, rather than believing that I’m lacking something, I just take a pause and analyze what it is I’m feeling anxious about. Is it rational? Am I really missing something from my life? I think about the things I’ve written down during my gratitude practice and it reminds me that things are okay. There’s no need to “fight or flee”, like anxiety likes to make me believe.
Do you find yourself comparing yourself to others? How do feel or how are you affected when you think someone else has something that you lack? Have you tried writing gratitude?