After having such a positive response to my last post on mindfulness I'm a bit worried that I may not be able to live up to expectations with this post so I hope this will be as helpful and informative as the last.
I'm going to stick with being honest about my own experiences and share some things I have learnt since I've come out the other side of having a bad time with anxiety.
Its a bit nerve racking to be honest talking about these things as its not like I'm writing to strangers. A lot of you know me or come in my shop. But I think its worth it if I can help someone else who is going through something similar to what I went through.
This post is about how I have overcome anxiety brought on by comparing myself to others and have come to realise recently that I am fairly lucky to be in the position I am in given my age and shall we say, academia. Let me explain.
When I have been at some of my most unhappy and lowest points I had (and still have if I'm not careful) the tendency to compare myself to others. I think this is common for a lot of people to do and over time and it has been very much documented. People talk about keeping up with the Jones's and may be told that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Both of these sayings have come about from the tendency of people in society to base their level of success or happiness (or lack of it), on that of the people around them.
Comparing myself to other people has been a massive contributor to my anxiety and has caused me to unnecessarily beat myself up about my life.
The things I compared against others are fairly common and I'm guessing as you read this a lot of you will say yes, I do that! I'm not going to go into major detail but things like; they have a better job than me, must be earning more money than me, have a better house, have a better car. They are prettier than me, more confident, thinner, fitter, funnier...etc etc.
One of my main despairs lumped the whole list above into on big accumulation in my head that everyone is happier than me. There life is so good and mine isn't.
I don't have a big house or a fancy car but those things have never been important to me so those comparisons only really happened when I was already down on myself but some things ill mention now actually caused me to have anxiety.
I went to university and got a first class honours degree in Business Studies but I never went out and got a highly paid or important job like I imagined a lot of others with a degree like mine did. The truth is I don't really know what jobs other people went out and got but I made these comparisons up in my mind and became anxious that I wasn't achieving enough or doing enough with my life.
The other main thing I worried about is that most people my age are married and have kids and I didn't. I couldn't understand why everyone else was settled down and I wasn't.
Hence lots of comparing, whether it was against a real person or something I made up in my mind. This was happening a lot and it wasn't good for me.
Social media didn't help with comparison anxiety. Imagine feeling rubbish about your life and then going online to see someone has a new car, got engaged or got a promotion.
Anyway, I am over this now. I don't do it very often. Here is how I've overcome this problem, stopped comparing myself with others and what I do if I start to drop back into a comparing, self pity fest! And you can hopefully use these things too.
1. I am not the only person to do this. Realising I'm not alone and this is a common problem for people does make me feel better. So onc thing you can say to yourself is that yes, on occasion it is normal to compare yourself to others. Just stop it at that then move on.
2. Learn to love yourself for you are. This is not an easy thing to do if you are prone to anxiety and lack of confidence but you need to be honest with yourself about who you are an get confortable with that. For example when I worry I've not got a job that reflects my academic achievements I just remind myself that I have tried several jobs in different sectors and with differing degrees of difficulty and my personality wasn't suited to them.
3. If you cant learn to love yourself just give yourself a break. Say I'm giving myself a hard time about the aformention job issue, I just tell myself to give myself a break. Does it really matter than much?
4. I learnt through cognitive therapy that compare and despair in a well documented form of anxiety. Its on the list of things that cause anxiety. This means for me its easier to put into a slot or shelve. If I'm busy churning my mind over comparing myself to someone else I can just say, this is compare and despair. Stop it and move on!
5. Think about whats really important to you. As with the life garden I mentioned in my previous post, make a list of what's really important to you. You could spend hours worrying about the fact that someone has something you haven't but then when you really think about it sensibly this thing really isn't important to you. Go back to this list if you are worrying. If its not on the important to me list forget it and move on!
5. Get off social media. Not all the time but if you feel rubbish just give it a break. Go do something that makes you feel good.
I have used all of the above over the last couple of years and I am in no different position now to what I was a few years ago. The difference is that now, because of doing them I now believe, as I said at the start, that I am really lucky to be in the position I am in now. Its not that things have changed, its that by using the suggestions above I now look at things from a completely different perspective.
I don't compare to others, I look at what ive got for what it really is and see the positives in everything. I believe that I am where I am, doing what I am doing because that's how its meant to be.
I see that I may not have a high flying job and lots of money but I have a job that I enjoy, I am in control of my own working hours, I can go on holiday when I want and don't have to work long overtime unless its something I do for the good of the business.
I don't have kids of my own but I do have a god daughter and lots of gorgeous children around me, who I am fortunate to spend quality time with but I can also go home to a nice peaceful house and have a relaxing candle lit bath on my own at the end of the day!
It really is all about perspective. Some times you just need to use mindful techniques to see things in a more positive way. Give them a try if you feel you that comparing yourself to others is getting in the way of your happiness. Let me know how you get on.