Moving Past Comparison

I found this quote somewhere in my serendipitous internet wanderings (maybe Facebook? Sorry for lack of attribution). I began a meditation on comparison. Comparing myself to others, and finding myself less-than, was a common theme of my early life. I worked through it, though.

  • I got over wanting to be the models in Seventeen magazine, even in Glamour and Elle, by learning to appreciate my own brand of beauty.
  • I got over wanting to be taller, blonder, have perfect teeth and skin, by recognizing that those things are not part of my reality, and are not equivalent to happiness.
  • I got over wanting to be a “better” employee than so-and-so by recognizing that I am uniquely skilled to do what I do. I’m far from perfect, but I care and I work hard at my craft.

I still live with a compare demon.  I’m not yet “over” being not-young any more, and sometimes I  compare my place in the cosmos with those 20 years behind me. Rats and rats! I’m supposed to be past this now. (But judging the judging is not helpful.)

Must. stop. comparing. And keep focusing on the reality of mid-life, my real life, and it’s a damn good one. Must keep my head out of my navel, look around and see what needs to be done, and do what I can do about it. A 57 year-old woman can bring a lot to the party when she’s not wasting time comparing.

So here’s to owning the present, savoring the wisdom and perspective of age, appreciating the zest and beauty of youth without longing. Not Dead Yet, after all!

Has comparison ever been an issue for you? Have you worked though it? I love to read your remarks.

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  1. What a perfect post for me today!  I turned 49 this week and that made me look at my life, and I feel like it's not good enough in so many ways that I don't know where to begin.  It's made me feel like giving up. I can't say that comparing my life to others is the whole problem, but it's certainly part of it.  Comparing myself to my younger self is definitely a problem for me, too.  (ie: "I'm too fat!" and "I don't do anything interesting anymore", on and on.)  I'll try to use this insight to pick myself up a little bit.  I'm glad that I came across your blog! I've signed up to follow you already.

  2. Oh yes. This is so much still an issue. But… although I still have my bad moments, I have tried to compare myself or my situation in a different way since I was 25 (I am now 58). 
    It is a given thing that we, human beings, compare; we do all the time. Why not compare me, my life, my to somebody who has less than me? Instead of comparing myself to somebody who seems to be better off? And that makes me feel a lot better. It all takes place in my head so I don't harm anybody. Besides, other lives look perfect, but they NEVER are. Never. And you don't want perfection anyway because you would be bored to death and nobody would want to be your friend. Who wants to be the lesser one all the time?

  3. It's easier to avoid comparison now that I'm older, but it never really goes away. I'm always striving for something better, but now I tend to be more competitive with myself rather than the cute girl down the block.

  4. I find myself often wishing I were 20 years younger.  However, major cancer surgery and a clean bill of health led me to be quite happy with my life and ready to do what I want to when I want to.  So I travel often, across the pond whenever feasible, and smile at the beauty of life. As for how I see myself, most of the time it is not too critical, but there are those times when I knock myself down for whatever foolish reason….I have an identical twin and still, at age 66, I look at our pics and think, "She is so much prettier than I"…. Crazy, huh?

  5. I read your post and until I got to your age, I assumed you were talking about a woman of my age (33). Shows you we all feel this way at any age. "Judging the judging won't help" is a great mantra. Good for you for consciously trying to be happy. You are beautiful 🙂

  6. Fabulous quote and very good luck to all of us beating comparisons demon!


  7. I do this too, I always did. I compare myself with others, watching whether they have a better figure, the longer legs, a more slim belly, are better dressed. only the evaluating of the comparison is different than before. I'm less critical since I'm over 50. today is not only my faults I see, but also my good sides. I am neither very ugly nor very beautiful, neither very thick nor very thin, I'm not a dwarf but not a giant. I am a woman of a certain age with an appearance, acceptable for me. Today I know looking good depends on charisma, and that in turn depends on how much I appreciate myself. I love your "visible monday" which gives us the possibility to show, hey here we are and we are fabulous. 

  8. My gosh, who doesn't compare in their 50s, much less our less secure younger ages. What wonderful advice. Think of the time we waste comparing and wishing, when what is looking back at us in the mirror is where we are right now! Good for that!
    Thank you for the perspective.

  9. Patti, this is such a great post. I couldn't have said it better. I thought I was over the comparing thing but I feel that it has reared its ugly head again because I have had my eyes glued to fashion lately, after not looking for so many years. It is hard to see all that beauty and then look in the mirror and see my own aging reality. But at the end of the day, I feel pretty good at 49 and the fact that I am retrieving my old style again helps too. 🙂

  10. I've found that as I get older I'm less likely to compare myself to others and more comfortable in my own skin. Though I do still have my moments, so I just give myself a good talking to – and try not to waste my energy fretting.

  11. Another awesome thought-provoking post Patti!!
    Yup–I used to battle the comparison demon myself.  I finally got over it in my early 40's

  12. This quote is perfect.  It's important.  This should be the daily morning mantra of every woman who has ever compared herself unfavorably to any other woman.

  13. steven furtick just happens to be my pastor here in charlotte at elevation church
    i see this quote repeated quite a lot

  14. As one of those 20 years behind, just wanted to remark that it goes the other way as well: some of us are looking in the forward direction to women like you.  I couldn't agree more that you all "bring a lot to the party"!

    I like your notion of "appreciating… without longing".  I've always been rather self-accepting in my comparisons, admiring certain things about others and then looking at myself and accepting without criticism my "version" of that same thing.  This is has also been helpful for me in dealing with chronic pain and illness.  You can't wish things away so it's better to find a way to appreciate what you've got.

  15. I thought the comparing was a weakness of youth also, but I do still compare myself now to myself at a younger age occasionally. For the most part I think I've learned my lesson though. When I think of how gorgeous I really was at 20 or 30, wasting my time whining about how I wasn't as perfect as so-and-so, it makes me want to kick my stupid butt. I suppose I do still have an obsessive focus on my navel, always thinking about myself, my health, my future, blah blah blah. Probably in 30 years I will look back on this and want to kick my own butt again. 🙂

  16. I don't want to compare myself to others in categories that I can't change: teeth, skin color, skill set, etc.  BUT…if I observe someone's behavior or manner in which they do something (a fellow Board member's command of facts) that I admire or covet, I will do a run-down of how I could do a given task or lifestyle better.  However, that observation and comparison should be used responsibly; I'm still living my life — not someone else's — and those comparisons should only be used to make what I'm doing better, not make me live the vicarious life of another person.

  17. Girl – I am right there with ya! I just turned 52 this month – it is hard not to compare.  New follower. hope to get a follow back!

  18. This is certainly an important thought to meditate on. Especially as we get older in years. I recently found myself shifting my "people watching focus" to those older than me, where I will be in such a short time. I want to feel akin or befriend the me I'm going to be around the corner and not waste time wishing I was something or somebody else now. It was a very pivotal moment for me and it happened in a crowded airport. I must have moved into some new passage of sorts, if this makes sense.

  19. I do not do comparison, it is a waste of time, i focus with is Now and deal with it!
    I prefer myself now than in my 20s, believe or not but menopause gave me peace of mind! I would have to explain this right? Strange i know!

    Aeiane xxxx

  20. Patti, you bring a helluva lot to anything you do, I know it. You're one of the most introspective and thoughtful bloggers I know, and you give voice to the thoughts most of us have, even if we seem to be chirping happily away on our blogs. I can't remember a time when I didn't compare myself to others. I'm wondering if it's because when I was growing up, my strongest female role models so often held up unattainable ideals. I think now I have more insight into the reasons why we constantly measure our own lives against others' – and come up short. It's the willingness to let ourselves be, just ourselves, without feeling like we're less than we are, that's the constant struggle – but always worth it if we can have those moments when we're perfectly content (no hair did, no make up, no awesome thrifted duds 🙂 and think, "I like me. I'm really happy with who I am."

  21. Oh, yeah. I feel like we're being conditioned to feel lesser if we are not celebrities or award-winners. Naturally most of our posts are about the happy stuff, the beautiful stuff, or stuff to ramp up those things even more. There is an unrealistic level of ramping to keep up with. The best thing is to give up I've found. That helps me focus on myself and find what makes me shine, me myself, alone. I hate the Nike(?) campaign that says nobody remembers second place. I still can't help comparing sometimes. My motivation sometimes comes from comparison, but motivation borne of an inner desire for self-improvement is more personally more sustainable and yields the greatest results. 

  22. I think comparison is part of our human nature.  Many years ago I asked my pastor why I seemed to have so many more problems than any one else in the congregation and he smiled cryptically and told me that I could not know by looking the problems that people have.  My urge to compare has gotten better…but just as you say, it is not gone.

    And while I can't speak for your professional life, you have made a unique contribution to the world of bloggers.  And every week I am grateful for the opportunity to meet new bloggers via Visible Monday.

  23. I think we all have to accept that the only life we can judge is our own. My blog has been great for introspection because I look at a different version of myself than the mirror. It's become a way to accept a different view of myself.

    I try not to compare myself to others. I tend to compare my successes/failures against others' successes, and feel sad that I'm not farther in life than I want, but I try to keep it focused on myself.

    To give quote found on pinterest: "Life doesn't get easier, you get better" – and sometimes that means being better at accepting yourself.

  24. I try to always think of "COMPARISON" as a thief….there to steal my joy!  I am so happy not to be in my twenties…I am really having much more fun right now.  When I hear COMPARISON at the door, I try to lock it quickly…because I know the thief will only leave sadness behind.  It is a one day at a time exercise…you are doing good when you recognize the harm.

  25. Not sure who said it(?? one of the Roosevelts(sp) maybe??) but a quote I try to remember-"Comparison is the thief of joy" –

  26. Wow. Some great quotes.  Especially love the Steve Furtick one and your "A…woman can bring a lot to the party when she's not wasting time comparing" quote.  You really could put any age in that sentence and it works.   

    I have started acknowledging when I'm comparing or judging myself.  I give myself a little apology and try to keep moving forward.  I used to be hard on myself, and then harder on myself for judging myself for being hard on myself.  A vicious circle of negative thinking.  Today I work on being the best that I can be – today. 

  27. I think we all have our comparison demons. My goodness, I can't help comparing my 50-something body with my younger self. I never had children, so I've never experienced anything like the post-menopausal physical changes. Thank goodness I'm so much calmer . . . about everything else. (smile)

  28. I saw this quote somewhere recently too. I believe it was Pinterest where I read it. I think all of us in our teens and early 20's compare ourselves to others. I see it in my 17 year old stepdaughter and although it makes me sad sometimes, I know it's a stage and feel certain she will get through it. In the meantime, I continuously remind her that she is a beautiful, talented, unique young woman who has so much to offer the world. 

    Where I notice that I compare sometimes is in the blog world. I see blogs that have only been up and running for 6 months and they have loads and loads of followers and/or a book deal and I wonder why their blog is so much more popular than mine. But I remind myself that blogging is merely a creative outlet for me and that as long as I am pleased with its content, that's all that matters. 

    Thanks for this thought provoking post, Patti. 

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