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Social Comparison vs. Gratitude

July 16th, 2012

Blog Format

This week I would like to talk about a common tendency people have for social comparison and how to find freedom from it.

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I will never forget the day, back in Graphic Design school, when I had to present my work to my classmates. As the others presented, I kept looking at the impressive work of some very talented people in our class and couldn't stop comparing their work to mine, the more I did it, the more I became intimidated by their talent, by the time it was my turn to present my work, I was ashamed of it!

Then a dear friend and classmate too, whose work was similar to mine, told me: "Why do you keep comparing yourself to others?, there is no point in it, you should value your work for what it is, not by comparing it to others, I am really proud of my work, it is what it is and I love it!"
As I saw her present her work in front of everybody, I could see that she really meant what she said, she was proud of her work. This is a lesson I never forgot.

By the way, of all the people in my class, she became one of the most known and successful Graphic Designers in my country, more so than many of those super talented kids. So my point here is: why do we keep comparing ourselves to others? It is a very negative tendency and it is unfortunately very common.

From an early age we engage into social comparison, we see our peers and often focus on what they have that we don't, whatever that might be: material belongings, success, talents, personality traits, body, relationships, etc. This negative tendency comes from a sense of competition that is programmed in our brains from childhood. In many cultures competition is encouraged as something positive, when in reality it is not.

This tendency of constantly comparing ourselves to others, is detrimental to our well being, because it means we are focusing on what we lack, we are resisting our current situation, we long to be like someone else, to have what others have, to do what others do; and by doing so, we loose track of who we really are, of our true essence, of our strengths, our talents, and of the good things we DO have.

This attitude puts us in a place of longing, dissatisfaction and resistance. Even though our words or thoughts may seem harmless, we are sending a message (to ourselves and to the world) that we are not good enough or that what we have is not good enough, and that simply isn't healthy.

So, here is the secret: the antidote for social comparison is GRATITUDE! If we are able to be truly grateful for what we are and what we have at any given time, we counteract the negative cycle of social comparison.

A good starting tip is to keep a gratitude log. Every time you engage in social comparison, stop and think about what you do have and are grateful for, then write it down! This part is very important: write it down! it can be anything and it won't take you more than a few seconds, you can just write 3 specific things you are grateful for. The best is to carry a little notebook with so you can write when you need to. This is a great way to immediately counteract the "comparing mode" and turn it into a "gratitude mode".

The important thing here is to develop the sense of gratitude until it becomes second nature. Everything takes practice, so don't give up after the first try. You can start with a notebook and then maybe do a gratitude list every morning or night, in order to maintain your "gratitude mode" at all times. There is even a cool online log if you prefer to do it over the internet: http://www.gratitudelog.com/

When we move from "comparing mode" to "gratitude mode", we are going from longing to contentment, from resistance to acceptance, from frustration to calmness, in other words, we are turning our energy around: from negative to positive. The bonus of doing this is that, as we shift the energy, we become more confident, more satisfied, more secure, more aware, and this will greatly increase our chances of achieving our goals.

If you want to delve more into gratitude, I have a previous posting on Practicing Gratitude that you may want to read too.

Have a great week!

Announcements:

*The 21-Day Meditation Challenge starting this week. Register now, it is free!

*The Art of Love has another great free event coming up: Attract Your Soul Mate with great speakers like Dr. John Gray, and Don Miguel Ruiz. Register here.

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