The fastest way to despair is by comparing one’s insides with another’s outsides. Therese Borchard, author of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety, gives us some tips on overcoming that nasty habit.
As Max Ehrmann, author of the classic poem “Desiderata”, said, “comparing yourself with others will make you either vain or bitter.” But that doesn’t keep me from going to the land of comparisons and envy. I salivate over other authors’ book contracts, or other bloggers’ traffic numbers. Then I have to pull out my set of directions – these six techniques – that lead me away from jealousy and towards self-acceptance.
1. Get more information
Most of the time we envy one quality about a person, and we presume the rest of their qualities are as perfect as the one we want. That’s usually not the case. Think Rain Man. Boy, did he know how to count those straws and play poker, but his social skills needed some fine-tuning. Investigate the person you want to temporarily destroy, and you will find that they have their own set of problems and weaknesses. Moreover, if you consider their success in context, you’ll see that they haven’t always been a superstar. Maybe, just maybe, back when you got a blue ribbon for the fastest freestyle swimmer in the 7 to 8 age group, they were afraid to dive in the pool or couldn’t figure out how to swim without getting water up their nose.
2. Do one thing better than them
This suggestion comes from a friend: “I believe that if you don’t succeed at first, you keep trying, and that failure teaches us about success. I believe that laughter is the best medicine. I believe that the best revenge against your enemies is to dress better than them.”
I absolutely loved the idea of “dressing better than your enemy” because it reminds us that we can always find one thing that we can do better than our “frienemy”. If matching designer outfits gives you a boost of confidence, knock yourself out! If competing in a triathlon just to prove that you are in better shape than your mean cousin with a great figure, sign up!
3. Put the ladle (and the running shoes) away
Early on in my writing career, my mentor would tell me (when I panicked at spotting a more popular book on a certain topic than mine): “Her success doesn’t take away from yours. Her numbers have nothing to do with yours.” I always remember that when I start thinking like a gerbil: that there is only one food bowl, and if you don’t get to it first and take as much as you need for an entire year, you and your whole gerbil family will die.
4. Learn from her
Your frienemy is doing something right if they have your attention. There is a reason you are threatened. So, get out your scribbling pad and take some notes. If you want to network with their confidence and charm, then study them at a cocktail party. If you envy their fluid writing style, buy a few of their books, and dissect the sentences just like you did the frog in Biology 101.
5. Find yourself
Be quiet for a few hours in a peaceful setting (I suggest some woods or a nearby creek if you’re not afraid of ticks), and introduce yourself to yourself. “Self, meet Self. Nice to meet you, Self.” Then you guys have to become friends. How? Think about all the things you like about yourself. During this time, give yourself a pep talk. Pump yourself up. Maybe sketch out some goals for yourself. What do you need to do to be able to go forward with more confidence? What specific actions will allow you to believe in yourself a tad more?
6. Do your best
The ultimate weapon against jealousy is simply to do your best, because that’s all you really can do. Your frienemy may still run further than you, swim faster, and sell more books, but the only thing that matters is that you have done the best job that you can do. Then you can breathe a sigh of relief and feel some satisfaction.
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