4 Reasons You Should Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People

 

Growing up I was very insecure and struggled with social anxiety. One of the reasons I was struggling with my self-image was because I kept comparing myself with my friends and classmates. I would think things like “I’ll never be as smart as her” or “I’ll never be as strong as him.”

This act of comparison contributed to a constant feeling of insecurity and inferiority. I constantly felt like I wasn’t good enough. Now that I have grown older, I have come to the realization that I should do all that is in my power to stop comparing myself to others.

As I began to implement this into my life, I began to feel happier and more comfortable in my own skin. I began to appreciate the talents of others rather than covet them. I began to love myself for who I am rather than wishing I could be like someone else.

It is common practice to compare ourselves with other people. We compare our athletic abilities, grades, salaries, and even our friendships. Comparison is a part of human nature, but very often comparison will leave you feeling empty and unsatisfied.

Here are a few reasons why you should stop comparing ourselves with other people:

1. You Will Become Unhappy With Yourself

“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt

Like I mentioned earlier, I struggled with my self-image growing up. As I continued to compare myself more with others I began to feel increasingly miserable.

When we compare ourselves to others we often only compare our worst qualities with the best qualities of other people. We just look at their highlight reel. If we only look at the highlights of other people’s lives we will begin to feel insecure or ashamed of our everyday doings.

For example, I might be scrolling through Facebook and see that one of my friends went to India for vacation during spring break. After seeing this I might start thinking something similar to, “I wish I had done something that fun for spring break. All I did was stay at home and watch Netflix.”

These types of comparisons will leave you feeling like you’re not good enough.

In reality, my friend probably had a great time in India, but he also had many boring moments at his home just like I did. It just so happens that he didn’t post about those terribly boring moments on social media.

2. You Will Become Jealous

When we compare ourselves to others it is easy to become jealous of their achievements, abilities, or popularity.

You might have a friend that is a successful businesswoman. Maybe she makes twice as much as you do. If you compare yourself to her you will likely begin to feel secure. You might start thinking things like “why don’t I make as much money as her? I work just as hard.”

You will likely begin to feel jealous and start to harbor envy against your friend. This will begin to separate yourself from her and you will likely build up enmity against your friend.

In high shcool I loved to play basketball. I spent hours learning about the game and honing my skills, but the joy of the game was often snatched from me and replaced with feelings of jealousy.

I would look at my competition or even my teammates and hate the fact that they were better than me. I would sit around and think about how hard I worked, and how much I deserved to play more minutes or get more attention.

If I had just focused on doing everything I could to help my team whether than worrying about being the center of attention, I probably would’ve enjoyed playing the sport much more than I did. More importantly, I would’ve been able to bond much better with my teammates.

3. Your Friends Will Become Enemies

Let’s go back to the businesswoman illustration.

Eventually this jealousy you have been building up towards your successful friend to will cause to dislike your her. After a certain amount of time, you will begin avoiding her or arguing with her. Soon enough you may even begin to fight with her and your friendship could fall apart.

This is a vicious cycle that could all be avoided if we simply learned to stop comparing ourselves with others.

Jealousy leads to anger. Anger leads to hatred. And hatred, as we all know, leads to the dark side.

4. You Will Stop Growing as a Person

Finally, comparison has the potential to paralyze you. You may end up feeling hopeless and thinking that you’ll never be as cool, funny, or successful as the people you compare yourself with.

These thoughts usually lead to apathy. We start to feel like we won’t amount to anything and that we might as well just sit around and let life happen to us. It can make us hopelessly passive rather than proactive.

When we get into this mindset we must realize that we are not the person we are comparing ourselves. I am me, and you are you. You have to decide what you really want in life. Who do you really want to be?

When we figure our who we are and what we want out of life, we can begin living our own lives rather than trying to be someone else. You never want to catch yourself chasing someone else’s dream.

Let’s close with a quote taken from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations that addresses this point better than I ever could:

“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”

 
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Chance the Rapper & the Power of Optimism

On May 12 Chicago raised hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper released his newest mixtape Coloring Book. The project has received great reception and peaked at #8 on the United States Billboard charts.

The most noted aspect of the project has been the optimistic and spiritual undertones. The music is fun, positive, and can even make you feel like a kid again. This seems to be one of Chance’s goals with the mixtape, he wants you to “make you remember how to smile good.”

Positive music continues to grow more popular. Whether it’s Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole, songs like “i” and “Love Yourz” are some of my favorites. It is not a surprise that positivity is attractive, especially in the negative world we live in where people complain so much more than they laugh.

If positive music is so popular, why don’t we embrace its message in our daily lives? Why does the positivity need to stay within the music?

The short answer is that positivity is hard to come by. There’s so much to be pessimistic about: the weather, your job, politicians.

But what if we learned how to be more optimistic? What would be the result?

Well, optimism has several benefits. The first being that it makes you extremely likable. Who wants to be around negative people?

Let’s go back to Chance. If his music had a different message do you think it would be as popular?

He’d still have tons of fans due to his talent and raw ability to rap, but I would argue that he wouldn’t be receiving this much mainstream attention without the optimism factor.

The positivity is the main reason I like Chance’s new project as much as I do.

Optimism draws people to you because it is something you can share. If you think and live positively, it has a profound influence on the people around you. Optimism is contagious.

Being optimistic also helps you deal with failure. When faced with a project that falls apart or a plan that doesn’t work out, optimism helps you look at setbacks in a positive light. When you are optimistic you can see failure as a means to learn rather than letting it impede your success.

Optimism is also good for your health because it counteracts negative emotions like stress and anxiety.

According to Psychology Today optimists have lower cortisol levels than pessimist.

They wrote the following after making observations about a study conducted at Concordia University:

pessimists tend to have a higher stress baseline than optimists. Pessimists generally [have] trouble regulating their sympathetic nervous system when they go through stressful experiences. The inability to look on the bright side causes cortisol to stay constantly elevated.”

People who are optimistic are also more likely to exercise and have healthy diets. This does not require much explaining. If you have a positive outlook on life you are more likely to care about your health and overall quality of living.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that optimism is a choice. It is not something that just comes and goes naturally. It is also not based on circumstances.

Optimists don’t ignore negative things, they simply search for the good that is hiding within the bad.

Positive thinking can change your life in so many ways. The more we look at life as a gift rather than something we are entitled to, the more we will enjoy it.

Let’s remember how to smile good.

Don’t be the Cranky Old Lady at Taco Bell

 

A few days ago I went to Taco Bell to pick up something for dinner. While there I witnessed a woman possessed with all the villainy that can possibly be held within a human being.

Upon walking in she seemed normal, just standing near the counter waiting for her order. A few minutes later she began complaining:

Is that my order?

I’ve been here for a half hour waiting for my food!

After she finally received her food I thought she’d shut up. But no this was only the beginning.

She started to argue relentlessly with the cashier.

Where’s my bag of chips?? See the picture I’m supposed to get a bag of chips!

The cashier, a woman probably in her late twenties, was very gracious to her. She kindly tried to explain to the older woman that a bag of chips did not come with the order. The woman ordered a Doritos Locos Taco, and the chip bag in the photo was there to illustrate that the taco shell was made out of potato chips.

After complaining for another 2-3 minutes the woman made her way out the door proclaiming that she’d never be eating there again.

 

I must admit, the food did take longer than I expected. It probably around 6-10 minutes to be done.

But is your order at Taco Bell taking longer than expected really worth getting that pissed off for? So much so that people can almost literally see steam coming off of your scalp? Is anything worth that?

After reflecting on this for a few minutes I came to realize how many people get pissed off about everything. They’re so cynical about society that they can’t even enjoy the simplest and most beautiful things in life (yes, Taco Bell I’m looking at you).

Some people just don’t know how to be happy. They’re so wrapped up in their own misery and misfortune that they treat everyone else like bags of garbage.

My advice for you?

Don’t be that angry old lady at Taco Bell.

Don’t be that dad yelling and screaming at his kid during his basketball game.

Don’t be that professor that makes her students miserable on purpose.

There a several ways you can prevent yourself from becoming this angel slayer coldhearted type of person:

The first way is to have a purpose and a drive. When people have no reason to get up in the morning, it’s a lot easier for them to find ways to make everyone else miserable.

When you aren’t living for something you won’t be happy. When you’re not happy you’re probably going to end up angry. When you end up angry you’re going to ruin people’s days. When you ruin people’s days… congrats you’ve become the cranky old lady at Taco Bell. 

Another way to not be a jerk is to learn to empathize with people. Although I’ve never worked at a restaurant before, I bet it sucks. Waitresses and cashiers are often running around doing 56 things at once. You are not their only priority.

Imagine being in their position. Stressed and tired from working your butt off. You’ve been working tirelessly at your crappy job just trying to get by. Then some lady walks in and starts yelling about how she didn’t get her bag of chips.

How would you react to that?

How would you feel?

How would you respond?

Doesn’t sound like fun to me.

A final way you can stop yourself from becoming the cranky old lady at Taco Bell is to put your ego aside. Most people that spend their time complaining at restaurants have a strong feeling of entitlement. Not a healthy feeling of entitlement either.

A healthy level of entitlement would be something like: I want food that doesn’t kill me and that tastes good.

Unhealthy egotistical entitlement is when you think that everything needs to be perfect because you deserve for it to be perfect. You think that you are so significant and so important that Taco Bell better get your food out to you fast and they better have your bag of chips.

The worst part is: a bag of chips didn’t even come with the meal. This woman felt entitled to something that wasn’t even on the menu.

News flash: Unless you’re a powerful political leader or a renown world-recognized specialist, you’re really not that significant.

There are literally 7 billion other people on the planet. You’re not that important and that’s actually a good thing. 

Because you’re not that significant you can put aside your ego. Don’t worry Netflix can wait, you don’t need to be in such a rush. And you sure don’t need to take out all your life’s frustration out on the cashier at Taco Bell.

You’re not Superman. You shouldn’t want to be Superman. The world is not in dire need of you. You should be okay with waiting a few extra minutes for your meal and you should be okay with not getting your potato chips.

The True Definition of Courage & the Only Way to Overcome your Fears

The True Definition of Courage

For so long I thought that courage meant the absence of fear. When adults in my life would tell me stories about great heroes, whether historical or otherwise, I often pictured them as people who were never afraid of anything. I imagined them as immortal and above me. These folks were never afraid of failing or looking funny.

My definition of courage as a child was something like this: the super power that I wish I could have.

As a child, it is easy to believe such things, but as you grow older you begin to realize something: everyone is just as scared as I am. From Olympic Athletes to soldiers in the military, everyone experiences fear. Being afraid is a natural part of being human.

With this in mind, I think it is appropriate for us to change our definition of courage. Although I’m not a huge fan of simple dictionary definitions, my man Noah Webster did an excellent job on this one:

Turns out even the dictionary had a better definition for courage than I did, who knew?

Courage is literally the ability to face your fears. This means that we are all capable of great courage.

How to Overcome Your Fears

In fact, the only way to overcome any fear is to face it head on. This isn’t just something that people say because it sounds good, it is actually backed by science.

I’m going to use an example from my life to illustrate this.

I struggle with social anxiety, which, in layman’s terms, is the fear of social interaction. In reality, people with social anxiety are afraid of rejection. We are afraid that if we share our true selves with others, they will be disgusted.

There are several treatment options for social anxiety, but the one truly effective form of treatment is something called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

Here’s a quick definition of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, as the defined by the experts at the Social Anxiety Institute:

“The cognitive part of the therapy refers to thinking or learning and is the part of therapy that can be ‘taught’ to the person. The person then needs to take what has been taught, practice it at home, and through means of repetition, get that new ‘learning’ down into the brain over and over again so that becomes automatic or habitual… The behavioral component of CBT involves participation in an active, structured therapy group, consisting of people with clinical social anxiety. In the behavioral group, people voluntarily engage in practical activities that are mildly anxiety-causing and proceed in a flexible, steady, scheduled manner. By moving forward in this manner, step by step, and through the use of repetition, the anxiety felt in social situations is gradually reduced.”

Okay so maybe that doesn’t count as a ‘quick’ definition…

We’re going to focus on the behavioral component of the therapy in our discussion.

As someone with social anxiety, the only way to overcome my anxiety is to face the very things that make me feel anxious. This may include things like starting a conversation with a stranger or speaking up in a large group.

This part of the therapy is often called exposure. The name says it all, you are exposing yourself to the things you are afraid of.

This type of treatment work with other types of phobias as well.

Arachnophobia, for example, is also curable with the help of exposure therapy.

In 2012, Science Illustrated reported a study conducted at Northwest University where 12 arachnophobes went through exposure therapy. During the therapy, participants were shown images of spiders and were taught about how to approach them. After just one three-hour session, many of the patients were able to go as far as to hold a spider in their bare hands.

Changing our Relationship with Fear

It’s one thing to know that facing your fears will help you overcome them, it’s a whole nother monster to actually face them in real life.

One of the most important steps in this process is to change your relationship with fear.

Often times we associate fear with negative things. I am afraid of doing ______ so I probably shouldn’t do it.

In reality, our fear often points to something we should be chasing, not running away from. Fear is a great compass that can point you to what you really want.

Most of the time we are most afraid of what we really want because it involves some level of risk.

You might be afraid to start a business because you don’t want to end up looking like a failure.

You might not want to ask the person you like out on a date because you’re afraid of being rejected. 

You might be afraid to express yourself because you don’t want to look like a fool. 

Do you see how fear can serve as a great ally? Use your fear to help you, rather than letting it control you. Next time you are afraid to take a step towards a goal or do something that seems crazy, use your fear as a compass and dive right in.

How to Generate Gratitude

Last week we talked about the benefits of gratitude: better psychical and emotional health, increased optimism and happiness, etc.

This week we are going to talk about how to generate the feeling of gratitude.

It’s one thing to know that gratitude is a good thing, but it’s another thing to know how to get it.

Reflect on Things you are Grateful for

The first and easiest way to generate gratitude is to simply reflect on things or people you are grateful for.

Remember during Thanksgiving Dinner when your parents asked you and your siblings to share something you were thankful for? That practice, although annoying as a child, is actually extremely helpful when attempting to generate gratitude.

Of course, the practice of reflecting on things you are grateful for is not something exclusive to the dinner table.

In fact, one of the best ways to practice this is to keep a Gratitude Journal. In this journal, you will consistently write lists of things you are grateful for. You might do this first thing after waking up, before you go to sleep, or simply when you have extra time during the day.

The important part of this practice is not how long your list is or even the content of your list. The important thing is that you spend time reflecting on things or people you are grateful for.

There are several other ways you can reflect the things you are grateful for, one of which is to meditate on the feeling of gratitude. There are actually several guided meditations that focus on the feeling of gratitude you can find on Youtube.

The iOS app Calm actually features an entire 7-day series that focuses on the theme of gratitude.

Have a Gratitude Trigger

A second way you can generate gratitude is to have what I call a Gratitude Trigger.

A Gratitude Trigger is simply a random object that is meant to trigger a reflection of gratitude. This may be something as simple as a red traffics light or stop sign.

Let’s use the red traffic light example.

So I’m driving down the street one day and come across a red traffic light. When I see the light I am quickly reminded that red traffic lights are my Gratitude Trigger. I then spend a few moments to reflect on something I am thankful for.

It’s really that simple.

I have used this technique in my personal life and it has proven to be highly effective.

Reflect on Times that you are Grateful

Sometimes the best way to generate gratitude is to look back on moments in your life where you felt a high level of gratitude.

I often look through photos from my high school graduation. It reminds me of all the great times I had with my friends and family during that period of my life.

I also like to look at photos from my trip to Europe last summer. They remind me of how privileged I was to go on that trip and how amazing the countries that I visited were. It also reminds of the amazing friends I made while traveling with People to People.

Are there any periods of your life that you are grateful for? It could be time spent with a loved one or a moment that you felt at peace with yourself. It may be a significant moment in your life or it might be something that is seemingly insignificant.

Spend Time with People you are Grateful for

The moments that I feel the most grateful is after I spend time with people that I care about.

This could be after a special event or even after something simple like going out to lunch.

In my opinion, people should be at the top of anyone gratitude lists. It is such a blessing to have friends and family that stick by you and support you.

 

4 Benefits of Gratitude

Our lives are often plagued with third world problems:

Why didn’t my boss give me the raise he promised me?

How come I got a B in that class instead of an A?

Why can’t I marry Selena Gomez?

We spend so much time complaining about what we don’t have. We wish we could look better, be in a perfect relationship, or make more money when in reality most of us already have more than we’ll ever need.

What if we focused our energy on the wonderful things we already have in like our families, friends, and talents? Would our lives improve?

Actually, gratitude has been proven to enhance our lives emotionally, socially, and even physically. Here are a few of the proven benefits of being grateful:

1) Makes you Happy & Optimistic

It doesn’t take a scientist to know that being grateful will make you happier. When we focus on what we have rather than what we lack, we are going to be more appreciative and happy.

Grateful people are often more optimistic as well. Think about it.

Let’s say there’s a man named Joe. Joe owned a coffee shop but it was recently closed down because he wasn’t getting enough customers. Joe has two choices: he can fall into depression and complain about how his dream of owning a coffee shop has been crushed, or he can focus on the things he hasn’t lost.

He still has a wife that loves him and children that are close to him. He has friends and family members that have consistently supported his business and have already shown sympathy towards Joe now that the shop has closed down.

Another thing Joe can focus on is how the failure of his coffee shop could actually turn into a lesson for success in the future. Now that Joe knows why his last business fell apart, he may have some necessary insight on how he can make his next business venture better.

Although it may sound crazy, failure is actually something worth being grateful for. Failure teaches us things that success never will. Failure teaches us how to face adversity and improve ourselves.

2) Makes you Fun to be Around

We all know how it feels to spend time with a complainer. Some people will just find something to criticize. They’ll find some excuse to feel miserable. These types of people are often aren’t happy with themselves and lack appreciation for even their greatest blessings.

On the other hand, we all know people that seem to appreciate everything we do for them. They are genuine, polite, and full of joy. Grateful people are almost always enjoyable to be around. It is easier for them to be flexible and to deal with complicated situations.

When we learn to be grateful, we will draw other people towards us because of our positive attitude.

3) Reduces Toxic Emotions

After we experience a hardship or make a mistake, we are often flooded with toxic emotions such as shame, stress, or anger. Gratitude often counteracts these negative emotions.

For example, let’s say you are an aspiring musician that lives in Nashville. During your last show you made several mistakes, were booed, and people even threw tomatoes at you. Afterwards you are filled with feelings of shame and embarrassment. You feel like giving up on your dream and going back to your job as a cashier at a fast food place.

Rather than sinking into shame and guilt, you can decide to focus on things you are grateful for, such as your supportive family and friends and the wonderful talent you have been given. You can also be grateful for the lessons you have learned through this experience and use it as motivation to improve your craft.

I often struggle with feelings of shame. When I am feeling low, I often call back positive memories when I have felt loved and appreciated. This might be something big like my high school graduation, or something that seems insignificant like when someone extended a small act of kindness to me. When I pursue gratitude, my feelings of shame begin to subside.

Gratitude can serve as a sort of antidote for toxic emotions.

4) Improves Physical and Mental Health

According to an article on psychologytoday.com, gratitude can actually improve both your physical and mental health. People who constantly experience gratitude are less likely to have aches and pains. Grateful people have also been reported to have better sleeping habits.

The positive emotions that result from gratitude also make it more likely for us to exercise and care about our health. If we are grateful for the bodies we have, we are far more likely to take care of them.

3 Reasons Why Self-Imporvement isn’t Selfish

Growing up in a religious atmosphere, I was often under the impression that spending time to improve yourself was selfish. I believed that it was a form of self-absorption. Although I was not directly taught this, I formed negative assumptions concerning all things self-help and self-improvement.

Instead of spending time to improve yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, I thought that my time would be better spent helping other people with their needs and desires.

As I’ve grown more mature, I have been continually  coming to the realization that my needs and wants are also important. I deserve to chase my dreams and pursue my passion just as much as anyone else.

Now that so much of my time is spent studying and learning about different aspects of self-improvement, I have come to believe that self-improvement, although it is primarily a “self-centered” practice, is not selfish. In fact, the act of improving yourself can benefit those around you in many ways:

1. Your Happiness makes other people Happy

I struggle with anxiety on a daily basis. It often has a negative impact on my friendships and ends up leading to days of nagging sadness. Lately, I have been investing in things that will help me  overcome my anxiety. I have purchased books, watched videos, and have begun to practice meditation.

Is my desire to overcome anxiety selfish? Wouldn’t allow me to have deeper and more meaningful relationships with my friends and family? Wouldn’t it open me up to be more compassionate and giving?

If following the path to self-improvement causes you to be a more  happy and grateful person, you will be able to make those around you happier as well. People who are confident and happy are more capable of encouraging and befriending others.

This is just one example of how improving yourself can improve the lives of those you care about.

2.Your Story has the potential to Inspire people

When I feel unmotivated to workout I often look at before and after pictures of body builders. Many of them started out very skinny and even wimpy, but through hard work  and dedication they were able to achieve their goals.

We all have the potential to inspire people in this way. Our stories of personal success, whether it’s becoming a body builder or overcoming social anxiety, has the potential to inspire thousands of people.

Who knows, maybe you could be the next  Steve Cook or Christian Guzman.

3. To Love others, you must Love yourself First

Similar to point #1, it is seemingly impossible to contribute to a relationship or friendship in a meaningful fashion when you don’t see yourself in the right light.

We often see this happen in romantic relationships. One of the members of the partnership may struggle with a deep insecurity. Becuase of this he might grow very lonely when his girlfriend is not around or get jealous when she spends time with her friends. He probably feels this way because he is not self-sufficient and needs the attention of his girlfriend to feel valuable.

However, if he had a greater sense of self-worth and self-love he would likely not grow so jealous and would be content with spending time alone or with friends rather than being with his girlfriend all the time.

When we learn to love who we are, we no longer need to seek the approval of others. Becuase of this effect, we can stop being clingy and needy and begin to contribute more meaningfully to our relationships.

Self-esteem has always been a vital part of self-improvement and rightfully so. The more you learn to accept and value yourself, the more value and joy you can give to others.