• How to be miserable in one easy step

    June 10, 2016 | curtrosengren
  • weight scales

    Want a surefire recipe for making your life miserable? It’s easy, it’s natural, and you’re probably already doing it.

    What is it?

    Compare yourself.

    Compare yourself to others.

    Compare yourself to what other people think you should be, or do, or achieve.

    Compare yourself to what you think your life should look like by now.

    Compare, compare, compare! It’s happening all the time and, as much as we do it, there’s no positive outcome.

    Falling short

    When you compare and find yourself falling short (and seriously, who among us doesn’t do that?), your inner critic rubs its hands together with glee with a maniacal glint in its eye because you’re giving it such good fodder to bludgeon you with.

    You reinforce the idea that you somehow don’t measure up. Your self-esteem takes a hit. You reinforce the idea that maybe you just don’t have what it takes.

    That might have a dramatic impact, or it might just be a slow, subtle, toxic drip that slowly seeps into your life.

    And here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter how good you are, how attractive you are, how skilled you are, there will always be someone who is better than you. There will always be someone who is one up.

    In short, you can always find an opportunity to feel like you suck, regardless of how amazing you are.

    And the more you train your brain to notice ways you fall short, guess what? The more ways you fall short you’ll notice!

    Being better than

    But what if you come out on top of the comparison? That pretty much rocks, right?

    Well, no. There are a number of problems with that. First and foremost, you’re outsourcing your positive sense of self, making it dependent on seeing somebody as inferior to you.

    When you do that, you have to keep doing that. And you’re always wobbling on the edge of a precipice, constantly in danger of slipping down the slope and suddenly finding yourself less than.

    Add to that the fact that this kind of comparison is really a form of negative judgment. Negative judgment is a slippery slope because not only does it drive a wedge between us and whatever we’re judging, it also opens the door for that internal judge to hand down its verdict on how we ourselves are lacking.

    So in a paradoxical way, trying to feel better about ourselves by judging others for not being as good as us paves the way for our own self-perception of not measuring up.

    Comparison is natural, but…

    Don’t get too down on yourself for your tendency to compare. It’s natural. In fact, as social mammals, it’s what we evolved to do. As humans evolved, there was a survival benefit to continually checking the situation to see where we fit in the current hierarchy so we could act and make decisions accordingly.

    But today it has run amok. There’s not much survival value to the comparisons that run rampant in our minds. Very few of the comparisons we make do anything but drag us down.

    Try this:

    You’re unlikely to flip a switch and turn off your comparison tendencies. But here’s one way you can start shifting the balance towards a more positive reinforcement. Simple self-appreciation.

    When you find yourself making those comparisons – he’s more successful than I am, she’s better looking than I am, he’s more outgoing than I am, she’s smarter than I am – you can use that as a reminder to step back and focus on something good about yourself.

    Maybe it’s a success you had, big or small. Perhaps it’s a quality you have that you appreciate, like compassion or persistence. Maybe it’s growth you have noticed over the past year, like being less reactive, or more willing to listen.

    It’s not about blowing smoke up your wazzoo and pretending you’re a rock star when the reality is you’re still trying to pick out simple chords on a battered guitar. It’s about recognizing and reinforcing the positive that’s already there, and using that as a way to resist falling down the rabbit hole that comparison creates.

    And the more you do it, the more of what’s good about you you will notice. Which can literally change your life.

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