I have a secret. One I’m embarrassed to admit…
All my life I’ve compared myself to my female friends. Since I was old enough to be aware of these things, the comparisons have mostly been related to how we look:
- Who’s the thinnest?
- Who’s in the best shape?
- Whose clothes or hair look best?
Over the years it’s extended to other things:
- Who has the most professional approach to their work?
- Who gave the better presentation?
- Who has given most thought to their retirement planning?
The odd thing, when I dissect this, is that it’s not about jenvy. It’s actually about who has, for example, put in more effort, been more thoughtful, patient, persistent or disciplined.
It’s not about what they have but about how they are being.
It’s not about me wanting to swap places with my friends. It’s about wanting to have more of the character traits they’re exhibiting in order to get the kind of results they’re getting.
What goes through my head is:
- If I was more consistent in my eating and exercise habits, I too would be in better shape;
- If I gave more thought to the clothes I wear and spent more time on my hair and make-up, I too would feel greater pride in my appearance;
- If I invested more time and effort, I too would be more accomplished at my work/presentation/retirement planning.
Essentially what I admire is their mastery over themselves in order to get a different result than I’m currently getting.
The only problem I see with these comparisons is that I inevitably use them to beat myself up. This is the path to shame, stagnation and surrender (and not in a good way 😉
Effective comparisons can lead to a commitment to learning – to ask questions, to engage, to recommit – in short, to re-dedicate our self to mastery.
It’s easy to see comparisons as bringing down the sisterhood by setting woman against woman, pitting us in superficial comparisons of how we look. But I’m pretty sure for most of us that’s not what happens. It’s not a case of putting others down, it’s a case of putting ourselves down – equally destructive and of course, much more personal.
So the next time I find myself comparing myself unfavourably to others, I’m going to see it as an opportunity. I’ll ask myself:
- What is it I’m admiring in them that I’d like to see more of in myself?
- What can I learn here, to be a better version of myself?
- What can I take from my observations to acknowledge the effort my friend has put in and raise them up?
What’s your cure to comparing yourself with your friends?
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