Comparison leads to social anxiety

How To Stop Comparing Yourself And Start Feeling Proud Of Who You Are

Do you compare yourself to others often? Do you frequently see yourself as inferior or “less than” others?

So often we see the strengths and positive qualities of others, but have a hard time seeing our own value. Frequent comparison just makes this worse.

Join Dr. Aziz as he shows you how to stop playing the comparison game, and start feeling proud of who you really are.

Click below to hear this episode!

The Comparison Game

Today, we’re going to be talking about a game but no, it’s not a fun kind of game. It’s actually kind of a crappy game. It’s called the comparison game and perhaps it’s a game that you are familiar with, it’s a game that I used to play on a daily basis.

Honestly, probably on an hourly basis. I would do it all the time. I don’t really have any control over it. I would always be comparing myself to others and is that something that you do in your life. Are you comparing yourself to other people when you walk down the street or you’re looking at how other people are dressed or their physical attributes or their weight or their height or their abilities when it comes to social interactions or how much money they have, how successful they are in their career, how much acknowledgement they get, how other people respond to them, if they are in a relationship, if there are women around them, if there are women responding well to them.

There are so many things we can compare ourselves on. I mean, virtually everything and it might be something that you’re doing virtually all of the time. So, how are you comparing yourself to others? Think about that for a minute. In the last couple of days, when did you compare yourself to others? And specifically, in what ways, how were you comparing yourself to others? Because that’s really important, that’s going to give you a lot of information and it’s really going to contain the key of how you can break free of this game. This is really not a fun game. There’s really no way to win this game even if you temporarily win which I’m going to get into in a minute, how you can temporarily win.

You ultimately lose in the long run because you end up feeling bad because hey, there’s always someone out there who is better than you in whatever you try to compare yourself. Well, think about that in the last few days, how often were you comparing yourself to other people? And here’s another interesting question. When you compare yourself to others, are you typically inferior to them in your mind or superior to them in your mind? Are you worse than them or are you better than them? Sometimes both happen, right?

We spend a lot of time being inferior to others and then we try to build ourselves up by judging people and being superior to them. But there are two sides of the same coin, there’s no winning in this game and I’ll share why in a minute. But I used to compare myself to people all the time, mostly inferior. But the more you feel inferior, the more you’re going to struggle to find some way to feel okay, some way to feel better than others. Now, here are some examples of this. When I was in high school, there was one kid in our class who was really brilliant physically. He was an amazing tennis player, very creative in a lot of ways but he was bad at Math and that was kind of well known.

And so, what would happened is you would get a grade in a test in the Math class, if I didn’t do very well, I would know who to go talk to about how he did it on the test. So, I get my grade back and it’s a 80% B minus and I’m like, “It’s not that great. Hey, Chris, how did you do on the test?” He would always like smile and shake his head and be like, “Oh, shit man, C minus.” I’m like, “Yeah. Oh, that sucks man. Sorry to hear that.” And inside I’d be like, “He, he, he. I’m not so bad.” That’s what we do with comparisons, right? We look for someone to feel like we’re better than and if you’re tired, if you don’t feel good about yourself, you’re going to look around you’re going to find people like that guy is ugly, that guy is stupid, that was dumb, what’s wrong with him.

That’s often the case actually is the more we struggle with inhibition and shyness and lack of confidence, the more we try to achieve that significance by down – what’s called downward social comparison. We look for someone who is less than us in some way and we kind of pick at them. But the reason we do this is because so much of the time, we are looking at others and feeling less than them.

So, while I was going to talk to Chris about his Math test, the rest of the time I’d be looking at the popular kids in high school, Adam Evans, David and Vince and these guys they wore colorful shirts, they drove nicer cars, they were more socially skilled, they could talk to women and make them laugh and I kind of be on the outskirts just looking at this and I’m thinking, “Man, I am one pathetic loser.” Why? Because I’m not that guy and I would do such strong comparisons and it would go so far and this is really painful to talk about but I don’t know if you do this or not, I would actually look at them and wish I was them.

I didn’t want to be myself. I hated myself and I was like, “Ah, I don’t want to be in this body. I don’t want to be this person. I don’t like myself. I want to be them. If only I were them then everything would be better in my life.” It was really painful experience but it felt so true. “Damn it. Just look at them. They have the things that I want.” That’s usually what we compare around, right? It’s like we look at someone who has what we think we want.

They look a certain way, they move a certain way, they have achieved a certain level of success and material things in like and we think, “Geez, I want that. And I’m not that and therefore, I suck and less than.” That something is really important to question that. That’s why I’m doing this. In this first segment, I’m just going to highlight the pattern and then we’re going to learn, how do you shift that, how do you shake things up, how do you break it so it doesn’t have that same hold over you

Because as long as you’re doing this and you’re doing it kind of subconsciously throughout the day, day in and day out, you’re always going to feel bad about this. And there is a way out of the comparison game but first you have to realize you’re playing the game and you were consciously choosing to play this game especially once you’ve listened to this episode, you’re going to know when you’re playing it and that is the first step to breaking out of it. Because we think it’s just a natural phenomenon.

This is just what happens. I’m just feeling fear because I’m less than. No, no, no. It’s something you’re doing in your mind on a daily basis regularly that’s creating that feeling and you can shift that. In fact, let’s get into that just after this break. What we’re going to find out why we compare? Why it’s so ingrained in us? And even better and more specifically, how we break that habit? How do we be free of this so we can start to really acknowledge and own and enjoy who we are rather than comparing ourselves to someone else and thinking that we’re not good enough, that we’re less than. So, stay tuned. Right after this break, we’re going to jump into that.

Why Do We Compare Ourselves To Others So Much?

The question that I want to ask now is: why do we compare so much? Why is it seemed like such an ingrained thing? You might have tried at times in your life to say, “You know what? Stop comparing to those people. I’m just going to be myself and be the best me that I can be. You know, stop that.” And you’ve tried to shake that habit, shake that pattern but it’s hard, isn’t it? It seems really conditioned in us to do that. And I think that comes from deep before your personal conditioning and actually into our conditioning an evolution. At the heart of is, we are primates. We are very close cousins to our chimpanzee and bonobo friends and they live in social hierarchies and so do we. We have a strong sense of social hierarchy.

This is even before our conditioning in this culture which very competitive and focused on achievement and getting ahead. So, there’s more, more of that that’s conditioned in from birth but even just right out of the gates, just as a primate, we’re designed to notice where do I fit in the pack? Am I desirable to the opposite sex to mate? Do I – what access to food and other resources do I get? How high up on a totem pole am I? And we’re super keenly aware to this, aren’t we? We can look around. We can say, “Well, that person seems to be moving with more confidence and grace so I’m going to fall in line and copy that. Well, this person speaking with a lot of authority so I’m going to do what they say so they don’t judge me or dislike me.” Or, “Wow, she’s a really beautiful woman so she must be really valuable and amazing. I better carry her favor and please her.”

And so, we are really conditioned and on top of that, from a very young age, it’s like what did you achieve, what did you do, did you win in the sports event especially if you had contact with organized sports which most of us do. There’s at least in the United States. Then, there’s this sense of you got to be the best so then we’re even taught more to compare, to relate ourselves to other people and see how we’re doing. And underneath that all, it’s just an innate need to feel significant. It’s a basic human need to feel significant, to feel special, to feel worthwhile, to feel unique, to feel admirable, desirable, special and we all have that need. There’s nothing wrong with that. But the question is: How do we get it? How do we meet that need for significance? We do it in healthy way or unhealthy way.

And we decide I want to be significant by putting my heart and soul into this project and doing the best I can and giving my best performance or mastering this instrument or do we try to tear someone down to feel better about ourselves. That’s a quick way to try to get ahead of significance but it doesn’t help you win because you’re still playing a comparison game when you do that. What are some of the traps to the comparison game? One is comparison paralysis. I see this all the time. You want to do something. Let’s say you’re single and you see a beautiful woman that you’re drawn to and she’s just the style and energy that makes you feel excited and you want to go talk to her or you’re going to apply for that dream job.

One guy I’ve been working with recently is a young guy in his early 20s and he’s not quite sure what he wants to do with his life, what career he wants to pursue. He thinks maybe I should do the safe thing. Maybe I should work, done some training. I have a Psychology degree, maybe I work with kids. And when he says it, he kind of says it in that tone. “Maybe I work with kids.” I’m like, “Well, that’s possible. It’s one route. But what are you passionate about? What are you drawn to? What excites you? What would be your dream job?” He said, “You know Aziz what would be my dream job would be to be involved and worked in the NBA. I mean, I’ve been avid basketball fan since I was a little kid.” And he’s obsessed with basketball. He watches it, studies it, plays it not at a level where is going to be a NBA player but he definitely has a strong passion for this sport. I said, “Wow. What kind of jobs are there in the NBA?”

And he listed a bunch. He knew a lot of them. And he’s like, “But who am I?” And that is the comparison paralysis. Whether it’s a beautiful woman you want to talk to or your dream job or creating a project or accepting that management position that work, we don’t do it because we preemptively compare ourselves to someone else and say, “Well, they’re better than I am. They deserve that thing. I don’t. I’m not good enough. I’d fail. I couldn’t get it. She won’t like me. It wouldn’t work out. I suck. So, why try? Why me?” And that’s just neutralizes you, doesn’t it? It just throws you at whatever gear you’re going, it just throws you into neutral, maybe even reverse. You’d certainly stop moving forward in your life and towards what you want. You know the crazy thing about this is it’s usually a vague comparison to kind of no one in particular. “Oh, someone would be better than I am.” And it’s not even a specific person.

It is like, “Oh, someone and if you really flush it out maybe you imagine someone with a degree from Harvard or someone who is taller and more masculine. But it’s kind of this vague, “Oh, they would be better than I am.” That’s just a reflection of playing the comparison game way too much and always ending up with the short end of the stick, always being the inferior guy. But fuck that. That’s the attitude to have. Fuck that. Why not me? Why not me for this NBA job? He wants to be an assistant coach. Hell, yes. Why not him? Why not me for that job, for that position? That woman, why not me that she want to date?

That’s a powerful attitude when you can start to adapt that because then you start to own your strengths, your gifts, what you have to offer. And the reality is, is this position that you want to get into and leadership or your company or the relationships that you want to create is they’re already out there and they’re always going to continually be out there because there’s going to be a turnover. There’s always going to be a need for assistant coaches in the NBA. Eventually, if you’re willing to put the time and in pursue the goal over many years and do whatever it takes and of course, he can get that and of course, you can find a woman that excites you that you want to be with who is going to love you back for who you are.

The only thing that’s stopping you is this weird vague comparison paralysis so fuck that. Rap that. Why not me? I used to have a lot of this anxiety when it came to really stepping up and doing this work in the world and saying, “Look, I’ve really overcome this shyness a lot. I’ve trained for, Jesus, I don’t know a decade on this stuff and went to graduate school and I’ve really studied this stuff. I’m going to go out there and help people and help them free themselves of shyness and develop their confidence.” And of course, there is that vague comparison thing that came up, right? Like, “Oh, who are you to do it? Someone else could do it better, some vague person.” I was like, “Oh, I don’t know.” Tony Robbins, because he was a hero of mine and I’ve learned so much from him and I’m like, “Yeah but not anyone is going to work with Tony Robbins.”

In fact, unless you’re like Tom Cruise or have a dump truck full of money, you’re probably not going to get an access to Tony Robbins. So, I have something unique to offer. But I was like, “Oh, no someone out there is better than me.” I really wrestle with this for a while and at some point, I came that add to, it’s like, “You know what? Fuck that, why not me?” So, instead of saying why me, say why not me? I have something to offer and remind yourself of your strengths. Get a little angry. Get a little fire in your belly and say why not me? Damn it. And just rant, stomp around your room and say with force and conviction why you are ready for that thing, why you can do that, why she would want you, why you’re perfect for that job, why you’re going to nail that new management position. Embody that attitude in your life. We’ll transform that.

So, you break out of that comparison paralysis. But first, that’s just one of many ways that you can start to shift this pattern of comparing yourself to others and noticing how you can break free from that game. So, let’s get into that now. How do you get out of the comparison game? How do you stop comparing yourself to others? How do you become comfortable and okay with who you are? I have several things I’ve discovered that can be really helpful for this and I’m going to share them with you when we come back after the short break. So, stay tune and we share three ways that you can break out of the comparison game and really start to be okay with who you are and relax into yourself. So, stay tune, we’ll be right back after this.

How To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

So, how do we break out of the comparison game? How can we stop doing this? It’s a little more complex as you probably experience then just saying, “Okay, stop doing it. Stop doing it.” You should tell yourself stop doing it and you keep doing it. And when it comes to any behavioral change, you just tell yourself not to do it. There are all kinds of interesting research that when you really resist something, it actually persists and exacerbates and there’s a really famous study about this where they had a guy who was called the White Polar Bear something like that experiment. I’m probably mixing up the details. But the essence of it was this guy said, “Okay. Whatever you do, don’t think of a white polar bear, okay? For the next minute, don’t think of a white polar bear.”

And you had people record how many times in that minute they thought of a white polar bear and guess what? It was way more than before we told them not to think about a white polar bear. They probably were even thinking about it before that and all of a sudden, their mind is like, “Don’t think about the white polar bear. Damn it, I did it. Okay, don’t think about it again. What’s the it? The white polar bear. Oh, damn it and I did it again.” We just fuel and feed something we tell ourselves not to do it. So, let’s find other ways to get out of the comparison game.

First and foremost, comparison and feeling inferior is about a lack of self-acceptance and self-love. I know that might sound cheesy or a little simplistic but that is the truth of the matter is that when I was looking over Adam Evans, when I was in high school and thinking, “Man, that guy is better than me. I wish I was him.” What was happening there is saying “I don’t like myself. I don’t like who I am right now. I have all kinds of beef with myself, an unfinished business and things that I’m not proud of and I don’t like and I reject on a daily basis.” And that’s really comparison comes out of. So, that’s like the ground or fertilizer or soil that the comparison comes out of.

So, if you need to stop the comparison game from running, you need to go down to the root there and that’s the root. There’s a lack of self-love. So, in order to change that, you’re going to need to love yourself no matter what. You need to find a way to commit to being on your own side. And this is a theme that runs through this entire internet radio show and any of my programs and products there’s a focus on how do we really accept and love ourselves. And so, as related to this comparison game, when you notice yourself comparing, right in that moment, you got to start having awareness of this game. That’s exactly a key initial step is you got to be aware when you’re doing it. “Ah, I’m comparing myself again.”

So, come up with a label. You can just say, “Oh, there is the comparison game or call it whatever you like. But when it happens, you notice it and you label it.” Because the biggest problem or challenge with changing this is it just happens without you knowing it and the next thing you know, you just walk around and you feel like crap. So, what you need to do is pay attention and say, “Oh, there it’s happening again, the comparison game.” Then, you need to remember this has nothing to do with me not having something or that person being better. This is about lack of self-acceptance and self-love. So, the question to ask yourself is in this moment, what am I rejecting in myself? In this moment, what am I rejecting in myself? And just see what the answer is.

It could be a thought. It could be a feeling that you’re rejecting like perhaps you’re rejecting feeling anxious or feeling shy or feeling scared about something. Maybe you’re feeling, you’re angry about something. You can’t let it go. It’s been kind of spinning in your consciousness for a day or something and you start judging yourself, rejecting yourself of feeling angry. “I should have better control over my feelings, damn it.” Maybe you’re judging in aspect of your appearance. I remember when I was in high school, I was just voraciously critical of myself, my appearance. I don’t like my acne. My hair doesn’t look good. My eyes look terrible. I’m not muscular enough. I’m too short. I’m pudgy. I wasn’t really pudgy but that’s what I would tell myself in my mind because I had such a distorted perception of myself and perhaps you’re judging your appearance.

Perhaps you’re judging your performance on something, your knowledge about a certain area, your desirability to the opposite sex. Whatever it is, just in this moment, what am I rejecting myself? And then, can you find compassion for yourself? And you put your hand on your heart, just take a deep breath in. Let it out with a sigh and say, “Okay. Can I find compassion for myself? Can I accept myself? Can I support myself? Can I get on my own side here?” And this is something that is totally foreign to you. You have major block or challenge and check out a variety of things. One or two things I recommend, one is my book The Solution of Social Anxiety which has a whole entire chapter dedicated to accepting all of yourself.

I teach a number of self-compassion, meditation techniques. And you can also check out the Confidence Code which has a whole section that’s dedicated to self-acceptance to self-esteem. So, you want to go deeper with these duos. Those are great resources for you. But the takeaway here is you have to get on your own side and until you do that, you’re always going to be stuck in the comparison game. What’s another way to break out of that game? Well, another way is to acknowledge the underlying emotion which is envy. It’s envy, isn’t it? Like you want something that that person has whether it’s a physical appearance or level of success, girlfriend, you want it like, “I want that thing.” And envy is a particularly challenging emotion because it tends to bring up a lot of shame.

You feel envy and then you immediately think like, “Oh, I’m such a pathetic loser. I shouldn’t feel envy. What’s wrong with me?” And so, people think they shouldn’t feel it and if anyone were to ask them, “Oh, do you feel envious?” He’d say, “No. No, I’m not jealous. I’m not envious. How dare you question me about that?” Right, we deny it because we don’t want to be seen in that way. But the reality is we all feel it all of the time. It’s a basic human emotion. You see someone who has something that you want and you’re going to feel envy and it’s a particularly mixture of feelings. It’s like a longing in your heart and then maybe a little bit of pain around it because you feel like you can’t have it or there is something blocking you from getting it. Because if you see something that someone has, you might think like, “Oh, cool. I’m going to get that, too.”

It was something that you could easily go get or achieve. You’re like, “Oh, great. I want to do that, too.” But the envy part, the pain comes when you see them. You’re like, “Oh, I’m not there yet. I couldn’t do that.” That’s the feeling you have when you’re walking on the street and you see a guy with his arm around his girlfriend and they just look happy and you look at them and you think to yourself, you feel that feeling, right? Ah, there’s some sense of like, “I couldn’t do that. I can’t. I can’t. I could never we’re walking on that street like that with a woman who loves me and wants to be with me.” And that’s the pain of the envy.

So, what you have to do is you have to study what you’re envious about because therein lies the clue and the key in creating that in your life. What is it? What do I want? “Well, in that case, man, I want someone to love me. I want a girlfriend. I want someone to give and share love with, to share my time with, a companion, a partner. I want sexual chemistry. I want excitement. I want passion in my life.” So, envy points you towards what you want. It highlights the secret underneath of what is my desire? And if you stay in the realm of thinking I can’t have this, I’m not good enough then you never uncover it. What is it that I really, really want? So, when you notice envy or notice comparison, ask yourself what is it that I really, really want. I want more money. I want a better car. I want a beautiful woman that’s into me.

I want the attention and the respect or as Kenny Powers would say, fame, money, respect, all of these things will be mine, right? And we want those things. And just notice what they are and just breathe with it and say with it, okay? And ask yourself. Is this a legitimate desire or need? Do I really need this right now? Do I really want this? Is it something that I think I should have because then I’d be a better more significant person? I really want this. So, I find out what is it that I want and why do I want it? And if it’s something that you’d legitimately want, let’s see, the guy was walking on the street, he’s got a beautiful woman in his arm and you’re like, “Man, I really legitimately want that. But why do I want that? Because I’m lonely, because I want to connect, because I’m a man, because I’m a human, of course, I want that.”

Then, if it’s a legitimate want and you really are going after it because it’s part of who you are and it’s not just about getting significance then guess what? Find a way to get it. Don’t believe in the bullshit story that says you can’t have it because there’s something wrong with you. I mean, that is something you have to shed and if you don’t know how to do that, then just go back to the beginning of these podcast episodes, start listening to them because I will teach you how to do that. It’s the first thing you have to shed is this pervasive story of, “No, not me. I can’t do it. I’m not good enough. There’s something wrong with me.” And you just get stuck in that, it’s like mud, quicksand, mud, sludge, manure. So, you have to break free of that and realize like, “Yeah, okay. I can do that. I will find my way there.” In fact, that’s actually the next episode, it’s all about what’s possible for you and so much more than you think is possible for you if… and we share with that if is next week. But before we end today, we got to get into our action step.

Time For Action

Today’s action step is going to be an awareness building practice. It’s a tool I share with you about noticing the comparison and then finding a way to love and accept yourself, seeing what you’re rejecting, studying what you’re envious about and finding the underlying desire and finding a way to get that desire. All of that requires that you notice when you’re playing the comparison games. That’s the action step. It’s what I call the comparison count. What I want you to do is get a little index card, 3×5 card or in this day and age your cellphone and create a notepad file in your cellphone or have an index card and pen in your pocket if you want to do an old school style. What you’re going to do is whenever you notice yourself comparing yourself to someone, pull that card out, pull your phone out and just make a little hash mark or put a number down, like you’re having a running tally like one, two, three, four, notice how many times in the day you compare yourself to others and sometimes you’re going to be really subtle.

It’s like you almost didn’t notice and you’re like, “Oh, wait. That was a comparison.” And I recommend that you actually do this for three days straight. Anytime during the day, you notice yourself comparing, you write it down. You have to write down what the comparison was or anything. Just make a little hash mark, make a little number on your phone of a count of how many times you’re doing it. And then each time, you do it of course and you notice that you can apply one of these techniques to see if you can let go of the comparison game, but the most important thing with this process is just to pay attention to how much you’re doing it. And there’s a beautiful thing about awareness practices is simply by noticing when you’re doing it and how much you’re doing it, it can have a positive effect in shift it and helping you let go. So, do the comparison count.

That’s your action step for the day. Next week, we’re going to get into its possible if… So many more things that you think are possible in your life and closer than you think if… I’m going to share what that big if is next week. And until we speak then, may you have the courage to be who you are, to let go of comparing yourself and thinking you should be someone else and really appreciating who you are in this world because you have a tremendous amount to offer, you have gifts that you haven’t even uncovered yet. And I’m excited for you to find them and share them with the world so we all can benefit. So, until we speak again, may you have that courage to be who you are and share those gifts with the world.

Music Credits

All music is either licensed or royalty free.

DeepSound – Lost Ground
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First Ad:
Sax Drum & Bass Mix
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Action Step:
DeepSound – Yellow Dog
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Lokfield – Terra’s Theme Dubstep
(Creative Commons License)

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