The comparison trap: learning to master your inner critic

For the past couple of days I have been fortunate enough to be holidaying in the beautiful Byron Bay. For those who are uninitiated, Byron is the home to beautiful beaches and amazing restaurants and cafes on the coast of NSW, Australia.

After my first day of walking around, I started becoming increasingly self conscious. As a 27 year old Melbournite used to cool temps and always fully clothed (in black preferably), walking amongst young, hot and tanned European backpackers in bikinis made me start feeling - well to be frank - shit about myself. The old inner critic started pointing out how pale I am, how I don’t have abs or super flowing hair like a mermaid.

A few years ago, this thought process would have crippled me and my energy, but this time I stopped. I started to question my self sabotaging behaviour…

Why am I comparing myself to a stranger? How is this going to help me or my holiday? What parts of myself am I feeling insecure for me to be thinking this and why?

Comparing comes easily to us these days. Not only do we have the option for real life comparisons as we’re out in public but now we’re bombarded in the comfort of our own homes through social media. We are constantly scrolling and seeing people’s highlight reel on Instagram or Facebook, whether it be promotions, holidays, engagements or other life achievements.

Research shows that comparing breeds feelings of envylow-self confidence, and depression, as well as compromising our ability to trust others.

So how can we stop it?

1.    Retrain your brain

  • Becoming aware of and avoiding your triggers by noticing the situations that cause you to play the comparison game.

o    Are there certain people that trigger negative emotions?

o   Are there certain activities that frequently make you feel discontented with your life (when you were feeling just fine about your life, an hour before)? 

  • Be mindful and in control of your own thoughts. When you notice that negative self talk, ask yourself why you’re focusing on those specific areas and if that’s due to your own insecurities.

2.    Congratulate instead of compare

  • Flip your inner dialogue so that it’s positive. If you focus on what you don’t have, of course you’ll feel frustrated and envious.

    • Example: you see someone has bought a new car. Instead of comparing this with your situation - flip the script in your head and congratulate them, think through all the hard work they would gone to in order to save/purchase the car and wish them the best for the future.

3.    Refocus

  • Sometimes comparing yourself to others isn’t inherently a bad thing if you’re using it constructively. Feeling a sharp pang of envy can put you in touch with your inner desires. If you’re frothing over your friends’ successes, this can show you what direction you should be putting your energy towards to improve your own life.

  • Use it as a driving force for motivation, but then stay in your own lane, think about your own goals, and focus on achieving them. The time that you spend on focusing on other people, is just wasted time you could be spending on yourself.

  • If you need to compare yourself with someone, compare yourself with you. What can you do to improve your life quality? How can you be a better and more loving person? What do I want to achieve in a month / 6 months / a year / 5 years.

Interested in more self development articles?

Read How I embrace my anxiety and Owning Your Thighs.