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How to stop comparing and despairing


By Niamh Ennis
26th Feb 2022
How to stop comparing and despairing

Do you recognise that sensation when you’re feeling so good about yourself, everything is making you feel just joyful and you know in that moment that life is good and you’re exactly where you want to be? But then, in a heartbeat, you switch to feeling the opposite of it, just because something in you started comparing your life to someone else’s.

I’m aware that might sound a tad dramatic, but trust me it happens more often than you might think. It could be noticing an image of someone you know on Instagram announcing some ‘big, exciting news’ or it could be a stranger giving you an ‘insight’ into their world but in that moment, theirs seems brighter, shinier and yours feel a lot less and duller.

‘Staying in your lane’ is a phrase I hear myself using with my clients quite a lot and I’m guessing that its origin must come from swimming. I’m also sure that like me you have childhood memories of learning to swim in a busy pool before graduating to swimming without your armbands in your own lane.

I can still recall that as soon as my chlorine fuelled confidence would start to increase, it would then disappear the second I lifted my head to look into the next lane just to see how others were doing. In that instant, I’d lose both balance and time, all because of my need to see was I doing better than everyone else.

Comparison has been around since the beginning of time; hell, it even appears as the tenth commandment ‘thou shalt not covet’; so, comparing our lives to other peoples’ is definitely not something new. You might feel, however, that with the advancement of the digital age and the influence and impact that social media now has over all of us, there’s just no escaping it. And you’d be right.

The fact that you now only have to bow your head to your phone to be taunted by images and words triggering feelings of comparisonitis is genuinely quite concerning. No matter how often we’re told that what we are reacting to is an edited highlight of a carefully curated image, in that moment, we are convinced that it represents a broader truth and our comparisonitis kicks in.

Thoughts immediately follow such as “they are much better than me, they have far more success than me”. “I’m simply not good enough. Why do I even bother? Who do I think I am? Get back in your box!”

Which of these are you willing to own?

You want what someone else has often, regularly and intensely?
You can’t help but feel envious even jealous of other people’s success?
You find yourself questioning why they deserve it more and interpreting it as you deserving it less.
You see other people’s success and achievements as meaning that there is less likelihood now of you succeeding.
Every act of comparison leaves you feeling deflated.

To really understand this, you need to accept that when you’re presented with someone else, who is shown as being better or worse off than you, you have no choice but to engage in comparison. If you’re listening to someone very smart and intelligent, or you’re looking at someone that is stunningly beautiful, there is absolutely nothing in this world that you can do, which will stop you from comparing them against yourself. That’s just how we are.

But what you do get to choose, is whether or not you allow that comparison impact your mood, how you behave and how you feel about yourself. For some, the realisation that we are all prone to comparison might appear like bad news, but by accepting it, you will learn how and when to expect it and that puts you back into a place of control.

Why not wait for it and then when it appears, observe it and add in a little mantra along the lines of ‘good for them, same for me’ or ‘it’s exciting for me to see it can happen’ or ‘it’s on its way to me too’? I’m not saying it will immediately bring you back to the present moment but it’s definitely a good starting point!

Not all comparison has negative outcomes though. Sometimes when we compare our lives to others, it can actually serve to motivate us to do more and to be more. It can be just the evidence we need to see that it is entirely possible for us to go after our dreams. It can make everything feel and appear more achievable.

So why not celebrate the differences you enjoy from everyone else, why not continue to do all you can to develop these differences in a way that makes you happy. Stop giving your power away to others by letting their actions make you feel inadequate. Instead put all your efforts into making your life the very best one you can, with all that you have. This is your time to shine and to stop playing small, just dive back into the pool and practice hard at staying in your own lane.

In the words of musician Dave Grohl, ‘No one else is you and that’s your power!’

Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Writer. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. Niamh is currently accepting applications for her 2022 The RESET for Change 3 Month 1:1 Private Coaching Programme. She is also host of the TOUGH LOVE ENERGY™ Podcast. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or visit niamhennis.com.