You have a unique set of talents and a distinctive perspective that is unlike any other. Developing your talents and perspective are the keys to your financial freedom and happiness. Yet, you may be undermining your talent, freedom, and happiness with comparison thinking.
Making comparisons is useful when it comes to shopping for cars or shoes. But, it’s deadly for our self confidence and quality of life when we compare ourselves to others. Comparison thinking has always been with us, but the age of social media seems to have kicked it into high gear. Now it seems as if we can follow people’s life moment by moment on FaceBook and Twitter. This tempts us to compare our daily existence with those we see on social media. Are our children as cute? Do we look as good as she does in her selfie? Is our relationship as happy as theirs? Are our cars/homes/vacations as glamorous as theirs?
I once heard an quote “don’t compare your real life to someone’s Facebook life.” There is both humor and truth in this insightful quote. We must remember that Facebook is a constructed image of snapshots of people’s lives. This is equal to the highlights reel of a sports game. Comparing ourselves to anyone else’s life, virtual or real world, is a dangerous error that undermines our success and well being.
Confidence: the Pathway to Success and Happiness
Confidence is defined as “a feeling or belief that someone or something is good or has the ability to succeed at something.” In the psychological literature, confidence is referred to as self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the sense that you have the ability to accomplish a task and make good things happen. This feeling of confidence, or self-efficacy, is critical to many our short and long-term success and happiness.
Comparative thinking is destructive because it undermines our confidence in our abilities and perspective. It’s your uniqueness, not your similarity, that is the keys to your freedom and happiness. But, it’s hard to trust in our uniqueness with so much emphasis on being like the others that we see around us.
Psychological research shows that confidence, or self-efficacy, is associated with increased level of success and personal well being. Self-efficacy produces positive mental health, high levels of educational achievement, improved physical health, and increased earnings. There are many reasons why confidence is connected to these various forms of success.
People with higher levels of self-confidence are more likely to try new things.
Confident people view new activities as tasks that are to be mastered rather than tasks that avoided. They are willing to begin activities with which they have little experience because they believe they can learn new things.
People with higher levels of self-confidence stay engaged in activities longer.
Since confident people believe in their ability to learn new things, they are more likely to see challenges and setbacks as learning opportunities than failures. Thus, they remain engaged in getting better at the tasks even when it is difficult. This ability to begin and sustain engagement in difficult tasks, increases their level of mastery and their confidence that they can achieve.
People with high-levels of self-confidence perceive themselves as having more control over their lives.
Thus if there’s something that they find displeasing in their life, they focus on how they can improve the situation. Whereas less confident people tend to see life as happening to them rather than being shaped by them. Thus, they tend to focus on what is negative about their life rather than how to change it. This type of thinking is associated with increased levels of stress and depression.
Comparison Thinking Undermines Confidence
You may think of confidence as something you have or don’t have. But research suggests that confidence can be developed by particular ways of thinking and behaving.
A large part of communicating confidence is through nonverbal behavior. We broadcast our levels of confidence to others constantly without knowing it. More recently, scholars and practitioners have been telling us the benefits of “fake it till you make it”. We are instructed to learn and use the nonverbal behavior associated with confidence until it becomes a natural part of our identity.
I definitely agree with the validity of this behavior your way to success approach. Yet, I’d like to draw your attention to how your thinking influences our levels of confidence. Comparative thinking is destructive because it undermines our confidence. Here are two ways that making comparisons undermines your levels of self confidence.
Comparing yourself to someone you admire creates self doubt, feelings of unworthiness, and anxiety.
You may see the success that the person you admire is experiencing and think that you have to be “just like them” to achieve similar results. Since it’s clear you are not like them, you may stop trying before you actually begin. Or you may ignore your distinctiveness and try to immediate the other person in the hopes of experiencing their successful outcome. You will always be a second rate someone else, but you can be a first class version of yourself. Living with courage means embracing your unique gifts and sharing them with others.
Comparing yourself to someone you don’t like creates a false sense of superiority and disdain.
Even comparisons in which we see ourselves “on top” undermine our confidence and success. Rather than focusing on your continued growth and development, this kind of comparison leads you to a path of atrophy. You lose the fire because you think that you’ve already won. Yet the race is not run against other people; it is always within yourself. This is why I loved being a cross-country runner. I realized from a young age that my race is a race of one. I am focused solely on betting my personal best from last time. Focusing on others around you, distracts your focus from accomplishing your personal best. This leads to overconfidence where your confidence exceeds your ability and effort. Don’t allow comparisons to draw you into this trap.
Build Confidence: Eradicate Comparison Thinking
The key to building your confidence and creating the success you desire is to eradicate comparison thinking of all forms and at all time. In comparing of yourself with people you’re never comparing apples to apples. Just because she is a woman, or a singer, or a mother doesn’t mean that she is like you. You are so much more than those titles. You perform the same activity or where the same dress, but the way you do will be totally different. There are people who will be moved only by your voice; by your perspective; by your vision. You owe it to them and to yourself to be authentically you.
Instead of comparison, think collaboratively. The next time you see someone and and tempted to think of yourself as in competition with this person, ask yourself “How can I use my unique gifts to complement this person?” This perspective will allow you to celebrate the success of others and nurture your own.
Confident women collaborate, they don’t compete. Hold yourself up to your own independent standards and encourage others to do so as well. Then you can have success without envy, confidence without arrogance, and pride without self-centeredness.
Confidence Building Affirmation
Where are you comparing yourself to others? Make a commitment to live collaboratively rather than competitively. If you would like support and a reminder to live without comparison, consider writing out the affirmation below. Post it in places where you will see it daily.
“I can now see the destructive pattern that’s produced in my life by making comparisons. I refuse to do that to myself and my dreams. I am not them, but that does not mean that I can’t have the desires of my heart. Being fully myself can bring me all the success I desire….Being fully myself will bring me all the success I desire….Being fully myself will bring me all the success I desire.”
Please share below your suggestions about how to build your confidence and live a life without comparisons. We all have a gift to share with the world. Help others live into their gift, as you nurture and share your own!