Don’t Compare and Despair
Do you endlessly look at how your life measures up to others? Christine Fieldhouse tells you how to stop comparing
We have all been there; feeling quite happy with our lot until we check Facebook and see a friend has landed our dream job, while another is on holiday in the Maldives, and someone else is smugly loved-up with her new man.
Then, when we look again at our own lives, we feel despondent. We have fallen victim to the ‘Compare and Despair’ syndrome. Having access to everyone’s social media highlights means we cannot help seeing success all around us, and sometimes it feels as if the rest of the world is doing so much better than we are.
Louise Presley-Turner, one of the UK’s top life coaches, explains why ‘Compare and Despair ‘syndrome is increasingly common.
“We see an edited highlight reel,” says Louise. “We see their children only when they’re clean, happy and well-behaved, and their partners when they’re being romantic.
We then compare everything about our own lives with the very best of other people’s lives. The truth is they also have rows with their partner, job rejections, and unruly children, but they don’t tell us about that.
While it’s natural to compare and then despair, it isn’t particularly healthy and can ruin our entire day.”
So how can we observe what goes on in the lives of others without letting it negatively affect us?
“Give yourself a reality check,” advises Louise. “For a second you may think someone else’s life is perfect – that they have more money, more time and better qualifications, but deep down you know there is more than meets the eye.
Although material things give us a boost of feel-good endorphins, they’re short-lived. True contentment is what we should be focusing on and that’s at a much deeper level.”
Louise recommends that each time we suffer from ‘Compare and Despair ‘syndrome, we catch our negative thoughts and stop them in their tracks.
“We all have two inner voices, which are opposites. One criticises us, tells us we’re hopeless, we’re too fat or poor or lazy and we’re not clever enough, while the other encourages us and praises us. Unfortunately the negative voice is usually stronger”says Louise.
“The trick is to turn down the volume of the negative inner voice, and turn up the volume on our positive one. If a colleague gets a promotion that you wanted, it’s natural to experience a pang of envy, but acknowledge the good you have in your life, wish your colleague well and focus on what you can do to get promotion for yourself. That way, you’ll feel in control.”
One of Louise’s most powerful tips is to describe the emotion you are feeling at any given time – it could be frustration, envy, or self-pity.
“I ask people where they feel the emotion – some people feel things in their stomachs or chest, while others may experience it in their hands or head,” she says. “Then picture the emotion as a clear shape and take it out of your body, hold it in your hand and get rid of it.
A favourite way is to put it in a balloon. Imagine what colour the balloon is and feel the buoyancy of it, and then let it go, along with your emotion inside. See it floating off, getting smaller and smaller until it’s out of sight.”
Finally, Louise recommends that we use our natural gifts and talents as much as possible, because when we are living in alignment with our passions, we can be so wrapped up in our own goals and dreams that we don’t obsess about other people’s lives.
Louise says that “if your own life is as fulfilling and exciting as possible, you may compare, but you won’t despair.”
“Comparison is the thief of joy,” Theodore Roosevelt