I have an important question for you.
How many times have you found yourself comparing your own life experiences to someone else’s?
Often, when we do this, we end up generating feelings of jealousy, or lack, or even shame.
Because we can actually do this comparison in any number of ways.
Let’s talk about jealousy first. It’s one of those emotions that we will feel and then get all wrapped up in our heads about having those feelings at all. We start to judge ourselves; maybe beat ourselves up for having a thought like, “I wish I looked like that” or “I wish I had a nice house and a nice car like she does. That must be nice.”
And then we follow that up with, “What are you thinking? It’s wrong to think like that. So stupid.”
We have likely been conditioned by our parents, teachers, or religious leaders that it’s wrong to feel jealousy. It’s wrong to covet.
The truth is there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re just being a human. You have subconscious thoughts. Those thoughts aren’t always logical. That’s all that you really need to understand or to at least have an awareness of.
The thing to do when you are feeling jealous of something someone else has is to explore the reason why you feel that way.
Yes, just get curious.
What is this thought you are having actually saying about you? What are you making it mean about you when you observe someone else and you have this fleeting thought you wish you had what they have?
For example, I’ve had clients say they wished they had more confidence like the other moms in their circle. The thing is, confidence is kind of intangible, isn’t it? It’s an emotion, yes – and it may be obvious when you see someone else embodying confidence. They demonstrate this outwardly in how they show up.
Instead of wishing that you had it, what if you searched inward and went into more of a problem-solving mode that addresses ways in which you can start generating more confidence for yourself? After all, that’s not something that can be given to you, confidence is something that is created within you. This isn’t a case where some higher power is passing out qualities to different individuals and you were passed over with the confidence gift.
That’s not how this works.
When you think that someone else has this quality that you would like to have, what’s stopping you from working on yourself and learning how to create something new for yourself?
Well, most of the time, we simply don’t recognize that this could even be an option. Or worse, we DO recognize that this could be an option, but instead we make the choice to wallow in confusion and self-doubt.
I don’t know how to do this.
I’m not the kind of the person who can figure this out.
Those are lies. You’ve certainly heard the phrase that “you can do anything you set your mind to.” THAT is no lie.
What if the people that you observe in your life that seem to be walking around with their heads held high, seemingly confident AF; what if those people weren’t born that way, but instead they have simply done the work to overcome their own insecurities and doubts?
What if you could do that too?
Yes, each one of us is having a very unique experience of life. And that experience is a combination of things that happen externally and how we turn those events into lessons and grow from them.
Confidence is a big topic. I’ll definitely devote a future post to this, because it comes up often.
For now, let’s move forward with these comparisons that we make. They are so often illogical.
Another thing that we do is compare the things that we have with the things that others have. Not just the qualities, but what their body looks like, what kind of house they live in; the car they drive.
We feel that we’re not equal to them. We’re not as worthy as they seem to be because look at what they have that I don’t. Why can’t I have that too?
I’ve had these thoughts. Absolutely. And I think now that a side effect of having those thoughts is that you have an opportunity to evaluate what’s really important to you. Is it really the things or the status? That’s where I’ve been able to land.
I’ve found myself to be much more appreciative of the things that I have in life than I used to be.
I used to think that if only I had those things, then my life would be better.
That’s also a lie.
Life is not better or easier or less painful for someone who has the big house and the fancy car. For all you know, they could be living beyond their means and constantly stressed about the financial impact of keeping up those appearances.
The point is you don’t know. Just as much as you think you don’t know how to create changes within yourself, you surely don’t know how glamorous the lives of others really are.
More money, more problems? Not necessarily. They’re just different problems.
There was a time in my life when I was barely scraping by; barely making ends meet. I was working the equivalent of two full time jobs and I couldn’t get ahead. I was exhausted and unhealthy. That’s when I was smoking, popping ephedrine, and washing it down with Diet Mountain Dew. I was an emotional wreck.
After over two years of realizing that I wasn’t ever going to catch up on that credit card debt I had created, I made the choice to file bankruptcy. It was a hard decision for me, because I felt like I was giving up. But I also knew that I wasn’t getting anywhere, and I would never be able progress past those minimum payments.
I really had to sit down and think this all the way through. What would happen if I kept going at the pace that I was going and what might be the outcome of me declaring bankruptcy?
Well, it turns out that there are all kinds of programs to help you rebuild your credit and come out on the other side of it okay. Yes, the next seven years or so were a little rough, but not nearly as rough as the two years of busting my ass so hard to barely make a dent in my debt.
When I was comparing then, I really just wanted to be like other people who only had to work one job to make ends meet! Nothing too outlandish. I just wished it could be easier for me.
Oh, but I learned so much about myself and my own capabilities; my level of determination, and ultimately my strength.
Every life experience is there to teach you something about yourself. Pay attention to that instead of focusing on what everyone else has that you don’t have.
And above all, don’t beat yourself up for wishing or wanting! That’s not helpful. That’s not what I’m saying.
Explore what you really want and then get to work figuring out how to make that happen.
Your brain has all kinds of problem-solving abilities if you just open yourself up to it.
For a long time, I resisted the idea of bankruptcy. I felt like there was a stigma associated with doing that. I didn’t want to be that person who gave up.
Then I had to ask myself, was it really giving up or was the system rigged to keep in debt for the rest of my life? What was my tolerance and had I already passed that threshold?
It felt much better for me to think of it as bucking the system than as giving up. For saying, “no more” to sending my hard-earned money to big banks every month. I needed that money for myself. I wanted to live a better life; to actually experience life instead of working like a dog to make ends meet.
See how powerful your thoughts can be?
They can keep you stuck and spinning in this cycle of rinse and repeat. Every day is exactly the same, and no progress is being made. Or they can help you to rise up out of that mess.
That’s your decision.
And here’s where it’s important to note: sometimes seeing what other people have that you don’t have is also your brain showing you an example of what’s possible.
We wouldn’t have big dreams if we didn’t have the ability to achieve them.
You just have to be careful about falling into the trap of comparison when those sneaky thoughts come up that say you’re not good enough to accomplish the same or even better for yourself.
Now, how about the guilt or even shame that comes up for you when you have these comparison thoughts? Ugh. Be careful with this! You really have to be on to yourself here.
A lot of times, your brain will make illogical connections between the things that you have or don’t have in your life with what other people have.
For example, recently, I had a dear friend and fellow coach share her stats from her podcast. We started around the same time.
Well, her numbers were so much better than mine. That was my thought!
Holy shit, why aren’t my numbers that good?
I even got angry with her for sharing.
I didn’t need to see that. Why did she feel the need to share that? If only she had kept it to herself, I wouldn’t be spinning out right now, wondering what’s wrong with me!
And I knew it was ridiculous, even when I was thinking that way, but I couldn’t get past it for days. I got coached on it. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Why don’t as many people like me as they do her?
What am I doing wrong?
What’s wrong with me?
And of course, I started beating myself for even having the thoughts in the first place. THAT was what was really wrong. Comparing myself. I shouldn’t do that. Then judging myself for comparing.
Feeling guilty for having those thoughts. Ashamed of myself.
It wasn’t even logical.
My primitive brain was making these illogical connections between her success and mine. It was telling me that she had more success than I did.
And success is not cake. There isn’t a finite amount of it, where if someone receives a bigger slice than you, it’s going to run out. Or you’re just going to be left with crumbs!
I had to start getting honest with myself and really take a step outside of all of the mind drama I was creating around this simple fact that her numbers were that and mine were this.
Completely neutral. It’s math. There’s no drama with math itself. Numbers are what they are. It’s only what you think about them that drives you into that questioning of why you’re even bothering doing a podcast if you’re not getting the reach that you really want to get from it.
Still. I never would have had those thoughts if she hadn’t shared her numbers. That’s what I kept saying over and over; really latching onto.
I wouldn’t have known that I was “behind” if she had just kept that shit to herself!
It’s so funny, really.
And yes, I did end up telling her about all my mind drama around her stats and she thought it was adorable. Ha!
They’re just thoughts. They are just invitations to a pity party, and you don’t have to RSVP! I know I use that analogy often, but it’s so true. It really resonates with me.
How many times have you accepted an invitation because you feel obligated to do so? It’s not even an event that you wanted to attend, and those aren’t even the people you want to hang with, but you’ll still go to the party because you got the invitation and it would be rude not accept.
Am I right?
Every damn thought that appears in your brain is not necessarily a useful one or a logical one.
There are even instances where we compare the despair of others and we think that our problems are so minor in comparison that we beat ourselves for even having the thoughts in the first place.
That is so unhelpful. Yes, also damaging.
For example, maybe you had an abortion in college and years later, your sister is struggling with infertility. You might feel guilt or shame over your abortion when one has absolutely nothing to do with the other.
Or you may think that as long as you have a roof over your head and other people are homeless on the streets, that you should feel only gratitude and so you refuse to take a look at your own emotional suffering. Because that would make you selfish and uncaring of the struggles of humanity.
All of that is illogical. We’re trying to make connections that aren’t even there.
Just as one person’s success does not diminish another’s because of math, one person’s difficulties do not carry a greater weight than your own.
Your problems are yours and their problems are theirs. I know this is hardest for empaths. We want to be open and aware of the pain of others. And it’s okay to feel that but ignoring your own pain as a byproduct; refusing to address it, is more harmful.
If you are shown an opportunity to resolve your pain and choose to ignore it instead, because you’re rationalizing that other people are more deserving, you are actually doing a disservice to yourself, to those who have the ability to help you, and to those who love you and want to share life with you.
It is a natural thing that we do when we compare ourselves to others. Begin the process of understanding that it’s just a thing that happens.
Your brain COULD also be showing you an example of what’s possible. What if that’s a new way to view things?
It’s just math.
Even the debt that I was carrying was just math. I owed this amount, and I had this much in my bank account.
When you start to view these things as neutral, you can send your own invitation back to your brain to activate its problem-solving mode.
Okay, this is what I want to create in my life, how do I go about the business of making it happen?
How do I go about eliminating this debt and starting over?
How do I go about building a better audience reach? What adjustments can I try?
How do I go about upgrading my life?
Other people’s problems are not yours to solve. That’s true even for coaches. Our role is to show you the way to solve your own problems and to help yourself out of that darkness. We’re not here to solve the world’s problems of homelessness, abuse, and crime. That simply isn’t possible.
We’re here to show you what IS possible, and that itself IS putting value into the world.
You have the ability to answer the questions I’ve posed. Your brain has powerful problem-solving abilities. It just gets distracted by pointing out what other people have or don’t have and sending those invitations for negative self-talk.
Your brain also wants to save energy, so it’s easier to keep sending you the same messages that it always has. It takes more energy to activate your pre-frontal cortex (the problem-solving part of your brain). It’s easier for your brain to spin out and tell you that you’re not enough.
Look at this person who’s killing it at life. Why can’t you be like that?
Indeed. Why can’t you? It’s obviously possible, because someone else is showing you that it’s possible.
It’s easier for your brain to spin out and tell you that you’re not broken enough to deserve help.
Look at this person’s problems. They are so much worse than mine.
Perhaps. But why can’t YOU be the one to demonstrate the healing power of deep thought work and connectedness within? Not outside of you. Inside of you.
“The garden of the world has not limit except in your mind.”Jelaluddin Rumi
What seeds have been planted in your garden? How are you tending to your own growth? Are you distracted by your neighbor’s garden? Or are you determined to figuring out the best way for YOU to grow?
Listen, there is value in every experience that you are having.
Even when those uncomfortable emotions that DO present themselves as a result of the thoughts you are thinking have value.
Even the jealousy, the feelings of lack, and the shame.
When those emotions arise, inspect the thoughts behind them. Don’t beat yourself up. Rather, simply notice those thoughts. Remember to get curious. Consciously choose new thoughts to think, and you’ll be well on your way to truly enjoying the experience of your own life instead comparing your life to others.
Invite your mind to get to the work of problem-solving, because that is much more productive than drawing those comparisons.
Nothing is wrong with you. You’re not doing it wrong. You’re simply being misdirected by your subconscious. Notice that for what it is.
Take back control and start ruminating on the things that are going to propel you forward. Don’t be afraid of a little discomfort. That’s simply the price of admission. That’s the cost of growth. A little discomfort will not kill you. I promise.
Realize that there are no limits, except in your mind.
This post is a partial transcript of my podcast, What Lights You Up – Episode 39. I invite you to enjoy the full episode and subscribe on Spotify or Apple!