Many of us are guilty of comparing our lives to others. This comparison can happen with any area in our life and the negative feelings associated with this can occur at any time. During 2013 I really struggled with this problem. It was rather frustrating because I genuinely like my life, am happy with my accomplishments but the comparisons made it feel like it was not enough, that somehow I was not doing as well as I should be as my peers. For instance, over a year ago, a terrible relationship with my ex ended. I’d find myself comparing my situation with another. I suddenly felt it was unfair or that I was just a failure. Yes, an occasional self-pity party occasionally happened. In reality, I should have been happy to be out of relationship filled with abuse, cheating and lies, and finally moving on from that toxicity. And being single is wonderful and that time alone allowed me to process the breakup, become a stronger person, redefine what I want in a partner, reassess the kind of person I want to be in a relationship, solidify friendships, travel and enjoy just being by myself. Yet, seeing or hearing someone have a completely different and more positive experience than myself, would somehow make me feel inadequate. I’m sure some of you can relate to this. It can happen with relationships, wanting to have children, being unemployed or feeling like you are at a place in life where you don’t have a strong social network. Maybe you feel content with your current situation or are a little unhappy about it, but somehow hearing or seeing something makes you not only feel inadequate but like a failure.
Accept that life has its highs and lows. Yes, your life is in many ways more blessed than others. And yes, your life may have its share of problems. The truth is, everyone’s life has a combination of blessings and problems and it’s all very subjective. In the writing world, I’d hear some struggling writers who have not yet published a book feel guilt and resentment towards a fellow colleague who has had a successful writing career. Yet, I’d know this “successful” writer and know that she was unhappy with her social life and had some family issues, secretly envious of these struggling writers who seem to have a more supportive social network. And that’s just life. Right now, I’m thoroughly happy with my career, but a couple of years ago I was not. Your life will never consistently be perfect by your own standards. In some ways your life will be going great, and in other ways it will not. What you view as disappointments, another might view more positively or be envious of.
Stop focusing on the lows. With my ex, I had spent so much time focusing on the many betrayals that had occurred. In comparing my life, I felt stupid (how did I allow myself to get in such a bad situation?), I felt helpless and I began to wonder how my life had come to this point. I was so focused on this one low, that I almost defined the current state of my life by it. It took a wonderful group of people to remind me of all the wonderful things in my life that I currently have. And once I placed more focus on the good parts of my life, it helped me place less importance on the low points.
Focus on your assets and skills. You have something that you offer to someone. Maybe you are the social butterfly of the group, always making people feel comfortable. Maybe you’ve always been a hard worker who is reliable, timely and efficient. Maybe you are the person people come to for love and support. You have many positive assets that you offer to others. Remember those so you can always remind yourself of how special, unique and wonderful you are.
Remember how your life has changed in positive ways. Remind yourself of the wonderful highlights of your life over the past few years. What have you achieved? How have you improved? What new skills do you have? How have you surprised yourself? Which negative behaviors have you dropped? If it’s hard coming up with a list, ask a close friend or family member who you think might be able to help.
Try to view it in a different perspective. One thing I learned from my experience is that where I saw weakness, others saw strength. Many of my friends thought I was incredibly strong for how I handled things in my life even though I felt helpless and weak. A similar feeling happened when my friend was deeply upset about her job. She felt like a loser for working where she was at. However, when I look at her, I see someone who is a Mother, with 2 children, trying to support her family, who is still in college and making ends meet. Where she saw weakness and failure, I saw a strong woman doing what she can for her family.
You are a different package than someone else. You can’t compare yourself to someone who has different thoughts, actions, needs, desires and behaviors than you. For instance, I like to go out several times a week but also enjoy my own space and privacy. Comparing my life to someone who is more social than myself or someone less social does not make much sense. Trying to be more social than I want, just to fit a standard I think I should have would only make me feel less happy.
It’s normal to feel dissatisfied with certain areas of your life. I’m all about self improvement and that can only happen if you know that your life has room to grow and develop. Life is unpredictable. It’s okay to feel upset about a job loss, divorce, a sudden death or another tragic event. It’s okay to feel disappointment about certain areas of your life not going in the direction you had hoped. However, it’s important to know that there’s a line between feeling dissatisfied about an area of your life and making that dissatisfaction the focus and definition of your entire life.
Limit interactions with things that make you feel more inadequate. Try to think of things that trigger feelings of inadequacy. For instance, social media can sometimes trigger those feelings. If it does, maybe take a break from it just to detach. Find better ways to cope with feelings of envy. Try to distract yourself by doing something you enjoy and adds joy to your life.
This is YOUR life. Nobody else can experience your life but you. It’s your own story with its own beautiful highlights, lows and highs. Imagine how dissatisfying and boring life would be if people went through the same experiences and had the same successes. Learn to love who you are and to continually grow and develop into the person you want to be. Keep the focus on you and only you.
Be patient. All of these feelings are normal and everyone deals with feelings of inadequacy at some point. The battle of getting through it takes time and patience. I just moved to Sydney, Australia recently. It’s been tough going from an environment where I had an active social life and moving to a country where I only know a very small amount of people, have basically no friends, and have a difficult time calling and talking to friends back home with the time difference. I have to continually remind myself to feel patient with the process of making new friends and adjusting to a different lifestyle than what I’m used to and that’s totally okay.