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Megan always likes to compete. The races she’s trained for and completed satisfy her need to know where she stands among other women athletes, regardless of age.
After running 3 miles on the treadmill, Megan walks to the mats for core work. As she wipes the sweat off her face and takes a sip of water, she notices another woman nearby who looks younger and more fit than she. The Other Woman completes some stretching and starts a plank. Quickly, Megan pops up into a plank position too. She immediately challenges herself to outlast the Other Woman.
So far so good. Using her peripheral vision, Megan can she is a good match for the Other Woman (despite her younger age and athletic build). The seconds tick by. Megan steals a glance at her watch which confirms this is one of her longest planks ever. That’s ok, she tells herself. Don’t quit. You can do hard things.
With Megan’s body trembling from the contracted muscles, she acknowledges this is the longest plank of her life. She doesn’t want to quit but she can’t hold the position another second. Megan drops to the mat with her body exhausted and her mind disappointed.
Taking a closer look at the Other Woman, Megan realizes she has been competing against a woman who was not in a plank position. For the past 4+ minutes, while Megan is meeting this plank challenge with everything she’s got, the Other Woman rested, stretched out on her stomach. OMG.
Where Comparisonitis Shows Up
I empathize with Megan because I could be her in this story, rising to a self-created challenge that was based on perception and not fact. (When I first started yoga many years ago, I repeatedly needed to remind myself that I was not competing with the person next to me.)
As humans, it’s natural to compare ourselves to others to determine relative importance. In fact, it’s in our DNA and part of evolution. As women and mothers, it seems almost impossible not to compare. Do I receive more positive feedback from the boss than others? Is my toddler better behaved? Is my marriage happier than hers? Does my teen have a more demanding course load in high school? (Shhhh. Is your brain giving you a message about where you tend to compare yourself with others? Listen.)
Unless you decide to reduce the amount of comparisonitis in your daily life, you will likely find yourself in a cesspool of judgment and disappointment.
Why Comparisonitis Sucks Emotional Energy
The cesspool of comparisonitis drains emotional energy because it often results in resentment. Why do others have a better job title, income, or house than me? More likes on social media? Higher achieving kids? The list of possible ways to fall short compared to others stretches to the moon and back.
Comparisonitis sucks emotional energy by putting the focus on the wrong person. “When we constantly compare ourselves to others, we waste precious energy focusing on other peoples’ lives rather than our own,” writes Joshua Becker.
Comparison is the thief of joy. Theodore Roosevelt
How to Revive Emotional Energy Lost to Comparisonitis
Human evolution and DNA make the extinction of comparisonitis inconceivable. The desired endgame is not to eradicate it. Instead, the intent should be to minimize its negative effects on your emotional energy.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Generate awareness. Catch yourself in the act of comparing and ask why you want what the other person has.
- Find perspective. Comparing the beginning of your journey to any point in someone else’s isn’t fair or reasonable. You likely see their highlight reel.
- Express gratitude. List some of your blessings that provide satisfaction and meaning in your life.
- Find encouragement. Allow others’ successes to serve as inspiration and guidance for your life.
- Focus on your strengths. Embrace your individuality. Your uniqueness is what the world needs. Cloning is overrated.
Over to You!
You get to decide how much emotional energy you lose to comparisonitis. You can catch yourself, put the brakes on, and limit the impact. You also get to decide how to revive the emotional energy it pilfers. Share in the comments how you will start to revive your emotional energy by minimizing comparisonitis.