Let’s face it, despite everyone’s picture perfect social media lives, nobody is perfect and far from it. Yet the one thing we seem to be able to do perfectly is pass judgments on ourselves and others. Frequently mother’s praise or condemn themselves based on comparisons between one another, measuring their self-worth on assumptions they have about others. The main provider of a family often times compares themselves and their worth, based on the number on their pay check…Never seemingly happy with what they see. Teenagers compare each other based on popularity and coolness factors but I mean what is ‘cool’ anyway? Children, teens and adults find themselves comparing their body image to their peers, pointing out flaws, instead of focusing on the beauty and uniqueness we all possess. No matter the stage of life we are in, there are constant evaluations and appraisals of ourselves based on others.
So my question is why do we base our happiness on comparisons? Why must we seek self-worth by focusing on others flaws? Why should we feel bad when we see others strengths?
The fact is we are all on a journey of imperfection. We are all perfectly imperfect and that’s okay. Life is about finding happiness… not making sure we are better than others. When we compare and think that being better than someone else brings happiness and satisfaction, we send ourselves on a never ending race, searching for a finish line of happiness that doesn’t exist. While I am just as guilty as anyone else of comparing my weaknesses to others strengths and vice versa, I’ve found five lifestyle changes that have put me on a journey for happiness, embracing my imperfections and working towards a finish line of being a happier me.
1. Be Less Critical. This takes time and patience but it can be done. The next time you find yourself comparing yourself to someone else, instead of saying “I’m such a failure” or “I’ll never succeed” think of something you ARE good at. We never know what someone else has been through to get to where they are. Besides, while someone else may have a strength that you do not, you also possess many strengths that they do not. Stopping saying “I wish” and replace that with “I can”. We all have something to offer.
2. Look in the Mirror. What on earth? Yes, I said it. Just look in the mirror, not at others. If you find yourself criticizing someone else, stop and ask yourself why it matters so much to you. Are you feeling bad about yourself and trying to make yourself feel better? Cause that won't fix anything. If you are unhappy with something about yourself, change it. Make goals to become better. Do something about it! Don’t just sit around feeling sorry for yourself that someone is better at something than you. We’ve all heard the saying that “you can do anything you put your mind to”. Well it’s true! Each morning look in the mirror and decide what you want to work on that day. Maybe it will even be the same thing as yesterday but my point is instead of focusing on what others are doing, we should be focusing on what we, ourselves, are doing to change.
3. Make Small Goals. Coinciding with point number two is to make small goals and changes. I can’t make a huge goal to become the most patient person in the world and expect it to happen overnight. That’s a bit of an oxymoron, don’t you think? It takes baby steps. Instead, make small specific goals, such as “Today I will only say positive things about myself” Or “Today I will find the good and say something kind to the person who irritates me”. Seems so easy, yet so hard, which is precisely why you must start small then make goals bigger over time. Change is like a ladder. We have our ultimate goal to be at the top but we can’t go from the floor to the top of the ladder all at once. We must take small steps to get to the top.
4. Use Positive Self-Talk. For whatever reason we seem to be our toughest critic. "I'm not skinny enough. I'm not as funny as [insert name]. I'm not smart enough. I'm not as rich as so and so. I'm not as pretty/handsome as this person". Whatever statement you find yourself thinking and saying...STOP. It's time to make a change. It's time to start embracing you and stop measuring self worth on what we see on the outside of others. That person you think is so funny, may actually be fighting severe depression. That girl that you think is so pretty, may be fighting an eating disorder. That person that you think has so much money, may have a lot of credit card debit. We don't know what is going on with others which is why i'll say again... we can NOT compare. Work on your own goals to achieve happiness, rather than trying to keep up with others. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t succeed at first with a goal. Instead of being critical, find something you DID do right. Maybe you didn't go the whole week of keeping the house clean, like Mrs. Jones across the street but did you last half the week, a couple days, a day? Those are accomplishments too! Give yourself a pat on the back. It takes baby steps to change but even if we don’t reach our small goals the first, second or even the fifteenth time, still find something you did do right and then evaluate where things went wrong. I mean remember, you’re not perfect, I’m not perfect, your neighbor next door isn't perfect...so we won’t always succeed the first time but practice makes perfect.
5. Celebrate the Small Victories. This is perhaps one of the most important. No victory is too small to celebrate. Did you go the whole day without rolling your eyes or saying a snarky comment at your incredibly annoying coworker or sit down and eat dinner together as a family? Hooray! If that’s your goal and you succeeded, CELEBRATE! Get some ice cream (unless your goal is to eat less sweets like me), watch a movie, do a happy dance, whatever makes you happy, do it! You deserve it! Small victories give you the strength to tackle the bigger ones.
True happiness will not be found until the only person that we compare ourselves to, is our old judgmental self. We should only be trying to improve ourselves. When we see things we don’t like, work on it. You will never find happiness telling yourself someone is better or criticizing others, including yourself. Even those we think do everything right have their flaws that they are working on. If you want to reach your end goal of being the happiest perfectly imperfect you, embrace your uniqueness and realize that you can’t compare anyone to yourself because they aren’t YOU! In the wise words of Dr. Seuss, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”