I arrived at work yesterday morning for an office team ‘field trip,’ and the two millennial women in our office had on the best outfits. They looked so cute. Can I say that?
My first thought when I walked in the door and saw them was, “Oh shoot, I wore the wrong thing. I clearly needed to think through this more than I did.”
I dressed more along the lines of “Let’s go for a hike in the woods.” These two young, hip gals dressed more along the lines of “let’s go for cocktails in a fun part of the city.”
And we were, in fact, going for cocktails in a fun part of the city. Well, after peddling our way down the river on the Paddle Tavern.
And, get this. I’m the one who hosted and planned the event, along with my business partner.
So, there I was, caught up in my own head.
This next part is true: I left the office to go buy a different pair of shoes for the day. To feel a bit less ‘hikey’ and to fit in a bit better with the ‘cute’ girls. (I know, I know…..they’re not “girls.”)
My story is a simple example of comparison. I consider myself to be a confident person, and, nonetheless, I am inclined to check in with how I fit in.
I talk with women regularly who are comparing: Their outfits, their drink order, their house, their car, their career, their weight, their vacations, their children.
“How am I doing in comparison to these other women?”
This is not going to send us anywhere positive. Getting caught up in your head will lead us straight into a rabbit hole of negativity and self-criticism.
When we start feeling “less than,” the things that are predictable include:
- We overthink.
- We focus on past decisions that we regret. After all, these decisions got us to where we are today!
- We get caught up in our fear of the future. “Will I ever get there? Will it always be like this?”
- We bring destructive thoughts into our thinking.
- We lean toward the negativity in our lives….while imagining we’re the only ones who have it.
So, what can you do if you’re caught up in the comparison trap?
Five Ways to Overcome the Comparison Trap
1: Know that you are not alone
I know you think you are. I’ve barely met a woman in my 56 years who is not looking at the carefully curated social media photos and wondering why she is not as happy, as adventurous or as lucky…as the postings on the page. It could be only a fleeting moment, or it could lead into that day of rumination. Just know you’re not alone.
2: Take time to think about your own life separate from what anyone else is doing.
Rather than thinking about how you stack up against everyone else, think about you and the moment you’re in. Are you content? Are you comfortable with your home? Are you comfortable with what you’re doing? Do you enjoy how you spend your day? In most situations, I would imagine you are. If you take a moment to live in the moment, to think only about the moment, chances are you’re okay.
3: Be crystal clear about the areas where you feel, let’s say, intimidated.
Where do you begin? Pay attention to the patterns of your thinking? What are you paying attention to? Where are you feeling ‘less than?’ Where are you wishing you could be more like someone else? Other women’s wardrobes can leave us feeling frumpy and uninteresting. Is it hair and make-up? Someone’s career success? Is it the cute family photos? The vacation photos? How about a friend’s commitment to exercise and fitness? Stacking up your sugar-laden diet against someone’s clean diet? What is bothering you? Make note of it.
4: Identify one area to work on.
Next, choose one area. Just one. The best way to overcome daily comparison to others is to take steps to focus on your own self. Focus on your wardrobe, your hair and make-up, your career journey, your family, your exercise routine, or your daily diet. Get out a piece of paper or open up a new Word doc and sketch out a plan. Give yourself time to get things in order and too build momentum. I have spent the past 12 months trying to upgrade my wardrobe. I’ve always leaned toward neutral, earthy, safe colors. I admire women who pull together an outfit with color! I’ve been moving in that direction. I have been paying attention to the women whose appearance is catching my attention. I’m even copying their outfits….searching for my own version of what I like.
5: Make progress in your own life.
Do something. If you’re struggling, progress is your best solution. Rather than sit back as a disenchanted observer of others, get in the game. #4 is key: Identify one area. Do not overwhelm yourself with the swirl of items in your head. Don’t allow your list to be too long. Don’t stay caught up in the daily rumination. Choose one area to work on in your own evolution as a woman….and put a plan in place to make progress.
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