How often have you “berated yourself” in the last 24 hours? How many times have you chided yourself for something you said or did, or perhaps, didn’t say or do? How frequently do you compare yourself to other people: those with nicer cars, more expensive wardrobes, bigger job titles, thinner waistlines, fancier homes, or perhaps better-behaved children?
I wish I had a way of measuring the responses of everyone reading this missive. Based upon my experience, the percentage of people answering the above questions, in the affirmative, is high. In fact, if you’re honest with yourself, the probability is high you answered that way as well. Comparing ourselves to others seems to be a common phenomenon for many, if not most, people.
Unfortunately, when comparing ourselves to others, we tend to compare the worst of who we are with the best of who they are. It is rarely a fair comparison. Young people tend to do the same thing on social media. They look at the posts of other people not realizing they’re comparing their lives with the “highlight” reels of others. As an example, “Look, that person is on vacation in Hawaii, I’m not in Hawaii, I can’t afford Hawaii, my life stinks.”
I recently spent four days facilitating a leadership development workshop of high-potential leaders from a Fortune 500 company. They were all bright, accomplished, and upwardly mobile. They were selected for the program because of their past track record and their potential for continued growth.
While the workshop wasn’t designed as a teambuilding event, the participants developed an enhanced sense of camaraderie because of the interactive nature of the workshop design. They quickly developed a sense of trust, openness, and transparency with each other. Most chose to be vulnerable and “real” about the challenges and problems they faced in their high-pressure jobs.
“Everybody is a genius.
But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
– Albert Einstein
Near the end of the workshop, we asked participants to share their personal insights, take-aways, key learnings, and action planning ideas with each other. In a large group debrief of those discussions, several spoke of a shared sense of relief. The group discovered a sense of commonality with their colleagues about the challenges they faced and the struggles they were all having.
More than one participant said something like, “It was nice to learn I’m not the only one with challenges. It’s comforting to know others are facing similar issues. Knowing that now, we can help each other find solutions and conquer our problems together. Wow, this is what teamwork should feel like!”
Isn’t that true in much of life. We often feel so alone in our struggles and challenges. To make it worse, most of us work hard to hide what we’re feeling and thinking from others. We go to great lengths to keep our struggles, imperfections, warts, and inadequacies hidden from the outside world.
So many of us walk around wearing “masks” to protect what is on the inside from being seen by others. Most of us work hard to hide what we’re grappling with deep inside. We put on false fronts and facades hoping others won’t discover our hidden fears and feelings of inadequacy.
While I’ll never know for sure, I believe a couple dozen people departed the workshop feeling better about themselves with a roadmap for addressing the challenges they faced, individually, and as a team.
I have waged my own personal battles with self-esteem and self-confidence challenges over the years. And, I know I’m not the only one who has faced the same battles. From my experience, I offer you these tips:
- Don’t compare yourself to others – If you want to beat yourself up, it is easy to do. It will always be easy to find someone who has a bigger house, faster car, more impressive job title, a better-looking spouse, better weed-free garden, more experience, or whatever other characteristic you seek to compare. Conversely, if you want to prop yourself up, you can always find someone struggling more than you. Comparing yourself to others, either favorably or unfavorably, is rarely constructive.
- Figure out the person you want to be someday – What is your vision of your most desirable self in the future? What does the “best you” look like? What kind of person, parent, leader, neighbor, “fill in the blank” do you desire to be? What adjectives would you like others to use when describing your qualities in the future?
- Compare yourself against your vision of the “you” described above – Rather than comparing yourself to others, compare yourself against the person you aspire to be. It is healthier, less destructive, and will pull you forward in the right direction.
- Strive for better, not perfection – Stop holding yourself to the standard of being perfect. Give yourself a little grace and cut yourself some slack. Instead of seeking perfection, strive to be better every day in every way.
- Forgive others for not being perfect – None of us are perfect and none of us ever will be. Are you expecting your partner, spouse, parents, children, pastor, manager, or anyone else to be perfect? If so, not only can I imagine your disappointment about them, but I can also imagine the unfair pressure they must feel. Someone once told me, “The goal isn’t to find a perfect mate, the goal should be to find a mate whose imperfections you can live with.”
- Help others feel important. – Most of us wake up in the morning asking ourselves, “Do I matter, do I belong, and does anybody care?” Someone you know is hoping you will answer those questions for them today. Go help someone feel more needed today. You’ll be glad you did.
Repeat after me please, “I forgive myself for not living up to my own expectation of perfection, and, I’m focused on getting better and better, every day, in every way.”
How will you live, love, or lead, differently, or better, this week?
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”
- Are You Running a Deficit?
- Are You Perfect Yet?
- Unlocking Confidence
- Filler or Drainer? Which Are You?
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- “Successful people have fear, successful people have doubts, and successful people have worries. They just don’t let these feelings stop them.” – T. Harv Eker
- “Strength is how you shut down the voice in your head that says, ‘I can’t.’” – Emma Xu
- “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” – Karim Seddiki
- “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without humble but reasonable confidence in your own abilities, you cannot be successful or happy.” – Norman Vincent Peale
- “When you help others feel important, you help yourself feel important too.” — David J. Schwartz
- “Confidence isn’t thinking you’re better than anyone else, its realizing that you have no reason to compare yourself to anyone else.” – Maryann Hasnaa
- “Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – Christopher Robin
- “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt