I know, I know. You might have come here to read this because you thought whoever wrote it is a big jerk for not caring about people and telling others to follow suit. Don’t worry, this isn’t a narcissistic post about ditching kindness, empathy and sympathy.
This is really about how we compare ourselves to others, care what others think, and focus on this as a guide for how we live our lives. We care about what others think, what they say, how they feel about us, how they treat us, how they act towards us, and we constantly compare ourselves to these people in a seemingly never-ending effort to be better, have more and look better and all because of someone else. This leads to either a frantic craze to keep up or an ultimate sadness and depression when we fail these vain pursuits.
Why do we care about other people in this way? What drives this outer comparison and care for the opinions of others? I don’t have the answer to these questions, but I do have some suggestions to reverse the damaging effects of caring about what other people think.
- Think about what’s most important to you. What do you value? What makes you truly happy or brings you peace or joy? Focus on these things, no matter what others might think about them. When you realize that doing what makes you happy outweighs any awkwardness or uncomfortable situation of feeling judged or disliked. Why would you give up what makes you happy just because someone told you it was weird?
- Find others who are interested in the things that you are interested in. When you find people who enjoy things that you do, the comparisons or embarrassment will decline and disappear. Do you enjoy Yoga but you feel embarrassed to practice in public? Start by joining a beginner’s class or club. Just remember — don’t compare yourself to others. This is an important lesson in yoga and in life. It is a highly personal practice and success is based upon personal improvement.
- Enter a contest or competition for something you love. This might seem strange to many of you, but this can help you put yourself out there, find ways to improve, find others with similar interests and can provide a confidence boost if you win. You’ll gain experiences, friends and insight into your own work and the work of others. Hey, I didn’t say you shouldn’t learn from others, just don’t compare your work to that of others.
- Ask your loved ones, friends and family for a list of your strengths and weaknesses. These are people you can trust and who will be honest with you. This will help you see what you are good at, what you excel at, and maybe a few things that you need to work on. The results could be surprising. Often, when we compare ourselves to others we only see their strengths and the ways in which we can’t compete with them. When we see ourselves from another’s point of view, we find much more than we expect.
- Practice mindfulness. When we stop and look at the moment we are in, we realize the joys of now and our strengths and weaknesses in the moment. Sure, we might not be the best student in class, the most productive team-member or have the biggest biceps, but there are people who are proud of us. There are people who depend on us and people upon whom we depend. We all need each other and this gives us purpose as individuals, independent from any comparison to others.
As we focus on improving our own lives, find our own strengths and weaknesses and stop comparing ourselves to others, we will find a lasting joy and peace that comes from both a deep contentment coupled with a strong desire to become individually better. We are ourselves and that is the only person we will ever be. Get to know yourself and stop caring about other people (you know what I mean). There are countless other suggestions to help focus on self-improvement rather than self-comparison. What has worked for you or others?