True or False: I’m able to distance myself from what other people are doing and avoid the comparison trap.
Maybe you think I’m not affected by ‘what other people are doing’ because all of my work is about being proactive and building a strong sense of self and all that kind of stuff BUT!!!! Guess WHAT!
I get affected by what other people are doing, and how they do it, all the time. No way am I exempt.
HOW I get affected has changed, though. Whereas I used to compare myself to other people and berate myself for not being as good or professional or ‘together’ as someone else…
…now what usually happens is I just get SAD. Or exasperated. The negativity doesn’t question my potential – it questions my ability to reach it to its fullest.
Does that ever happen to you? You’re not jealous and you’re not really even self-deprecating…the self-talk that’s coming up isn’t:
I’m a failure.
I’m not successful like they are.
She’s doing THAT way better than I am.
The self-talk is more along the lines of:
I’m doing everything I can and it’s just not cutting it.
I’m so behind.
I can’t believe I’m still HERE.
If I only had [fill in blank], this wouldn’t be so hard.
It can be frustrating seeing what other people are able to do with their resources, their connections, and their privileges – and telling yourself to celebrate what they’re doing instead of telling yourself that you’re in competition with them (which is a good idea, because there is enough room for ANYONE and EVERYONE) won’t magically make those feelings of frustration magically disappear. Celebrating others and feeling down about your work, progress, or Self aren’t mutually exclusive.
This happens most often for me on a professional level – but it also rears its head personally. I compare what I’m able to do with what someone who has a financially robust support system, like a high-earning partner or a wealthy family, is able to do. I compare my work days at home in my studio apartment (where I cowork with my husband) with people who have homes with dedicated offices or even just doors that can close besides the door to the bathroom. I compare myself to people who have cars to sing in (which is one of my favorite ways to blow off steam), people who have home gyms, people who live mere minutes from their families or best friends…as you can see this kind of thinking is NOT productive. And this kind of thinking can become really detrimental, because then what happens is that I start to frame choices I’ve actually made for my best well-being in a negative light, and all the sudden the negative self-talk loop starts, and just keeps going.
What Is A Negative Self-Talk Loop?
A negative self-talk loop is when the demeaning and degrading story we tell ourselves about ourselves or our life not only plays on repeat in our brain, but leads to even more demeaning and degrading thoughts. Since negative self-talk thrives off of uncertainty, it makes complete sense that it’s been having a field day for so many of us in so many ways throughout 2020 in particular.
When you’re in the negative self-talk loop of ‘I’m trying and it’s not enough,’ ‘I’m so behind,’ or even just ‘Why does this have to be so hard,” try this reframe:
Do the very best with what you’ve got…and the best for what’s next.
Do The Very Best With What You’ve Got…
Do the very best with what you’ve got. And remember that what you have could be something that someone else longs for. Some of those things are superficial (like the layout/size/location of your home) or based in choice (like whether or not you have kids). Someone who lives alone might be longing for the interactions a family would provide. Someone who has a spouse or a kid or both might be longing for even just an hour of solo time. The proverb ‘grass is always greener’ became a proverb for a reason. Everyone – EVERYONE – has their breaking points, or stuff that just makes things harder than it is for others.
And then of course there are all the barriers to entry that are so very beyond superficial and so very beyond choice. No, not every one of us has every single privilege, but we all hold SOME sort of privilege in comparison to others. I’m in my 30s, I’m white, I’m cis-gendered, I’m able-bodied, I’m a college graduate, I’m a size that society doesn’t actively exclude…there are so many aspects of who so many of us are that give us a massively unfair edge over others in our society. If you’re reading this, it means you have access to the internet, which I recently learned more than HALF the world still doesn’t have. There are so many systemic barriers to entry that exist for so many people when it comes to them living the life that they’d love to be living.
This isn’t a post to tell you to suck it up and put on your big kid pants and pull that twisted parental BS so many kids in my generation got about finishing the food on our plates because of the vast amount of starving people there are in the world. Nope. I am so over that shame and blame game.
Guilt, as I told my brother the other day on one of our heart to heart calls, is one of the most useless emotions – not always – but most of the time. Because most of the time, guilt, leads to shame, and shame leads to silence, and silence gets us nowhere. As WANTcast guest Christen Brandt, co-founder of She’s the First, said in Episode 71, if you’re feeling guilty about your own privilege, that’s actually a sign it’s time to do something WITH it.
…And The Best For What’s Next.
When you start to go down this path, and then you think of all that others don’t have, and maybe the guilt and shame starts to bubble up, repeat to yourself: I will do the best with what I’ve got, and the best for what’s next.
The what’s next part is so important here. Because sometimes (not always, but sometimes) when we focus so intently on the ‘what we’ve got’ part, we forget to look forward. Life is a dance between the past, the present, and the future – doing the best with what we’ve got and the best for what’s next encompasses all three. We’re doing in the present, working with what the past has brought us, and building toward the future.
This past-present-future mindset not only allows you to embrace where you’ve been and where you are, but also look for ways you can enhance and improve life – your own AND others’ – in the future.
When it comes to life enhancement and improvement, it’s really easy to get stuck looking in your rear view mirror. I know I’ve definitely found myself in positions where I’m kicking myself, rhetorically wondering WHY didn’t you start sooner? WHY didn’t you have that conversation? WHY didn’t you speak your mind? WHY WHY WHY…
…and it’s usually because I was so wrapped up in whatever my perceived roadblock was, that I forgot that the present moment is ALSO a step away from the past and into the future.
No moment lives on its own, by itself. Every moment is intertwined with both all the ones that have come before it and all the ones that will come after it. Sometimes it’s SO hard for me to just do the best with what I’ve gotten in the past and what’s in front of me in the present. But when I can remember that this moment is also in service of whatever is next, it’s that super small but ultimately seriously meaningful change that can help me keep going WITHOUT getting stuck in my own negativity loops.
Set Your Future Up For Success.
My hope is that we’ll someday untangle being perfect with being right. And we’ll stop confusing doing the BEST with doing the best you CAN.
So whether that’s finding a way to get your business running from your studio apartment, or taking job interviews while also taking care of your kids, or feeding yourself nourishing dinners when the grocery shelves are barely even stocked, or helping your household become actively anti-racist, or whatever it is for you, try that reframe. Do the best with what you’ve got and the best for what’s next.
Use what you have now and what’s led you here in the best way you can, and set your future up for success as well. Know that the now isn’t the forever, and the cool thing about that is there are tangible things you can do right now that your future self will thank you for.
Like Maya Angelou said, Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better. Put it on loop, and just keep going.