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A major characteristic of people I treat for eating problems is that they frequently compare themselves to others. Sometimes they do this consciously but, honestly, most of the time I don’t think they have a clue that they’re doing it. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of competition, but there’s everything wrong when you can’t stop noticing who has more of this and less of that and how you don’t stack up.
Constant comparison is about feeling insecure and believing that you must have a certain amount of whatever—money, clothes, job status, successes, recognition—in order to feel okay about yourself. And this insecurity leads to envy and jealousy (see my blogs Envy and Jealousy) which are not emotions you want to feel very often never mind live on a steady diet of.
Amy Alkon, the Advice Goddess, quotes psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 10/30/14, 61E), who insists, “You can’t be envious and happy at the same time.” She says that “Lyubomirsky’s research finds that the happiest people aren’t weighed down by others’ achievements, they take pleasure in others’ successes and appear to judge themselves by their own internal standards. Unhappy people, on the other hand, feel deflated by their peers’ accomplishments and relieved about their failures. They tend to be very focused on how much better others are doing, which causes them to feel ‘chronically vulnerable, threatened, and insecure.’”
Be honest. Are you someone who’s constantly competing—secretly or openly—with others and only feels good when you win or succeed? Does doing so make you feel better or worse about yourself, your body or your eating?
Observe yourself and notice when envy and jealousy flare up. Rather than engage with these emotions, switch your focus to yourself. What can you do to improve whatever it is you’re wishing to do or be? Remember that when you feel insecure others often sense it and you may come off as haughty, entitled, weak or desperate. Instead, open your heart and feel happy for others’ successes and confident (faking it til you make) that you will find your own. This will help you radiate what Alkon calls “positive” energy.
Remember, it really doesn’t matter how much or little you have of anything above a minimal sufficiency. What’s essential is how you value what you have and go after what you want. Stop comparing and competing and you’ll feel much better about yourself.
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