We all do it. When we clean our houses, we ask ourselves if it’s as clean as it would be if Mom had done it. When someone we know buys something expensive, we question whether we should be doing well enough financially to buy such nice things. When we look in the mirror, we wonder if our friends look better or younger than we do.
Comparing yourself to the people around you is a common response to seeing things or situations that you perceive as being better or more desirable than your own. It’s natural to want to to get ahead or to keep up to the standards set by those around you, but there is a point where you have to sit back and ask yourself why these measurements of perceived value are so important to you.
First of all, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself. Getting more fit, more organized, and more focused on your career are all reasonable goals in and of themselves. There are many ways to improve your standard of living, both personally and financially, and it’s quite healthy and normal to want those things for yourself and your family.
The problem arises when the reason you want to do these things has nothing to do with wanting to boost your lifestyle, but rather is about meeting the rules of some self-imposed code of behavior you have imagined exists. If most of your friends drive luxury cars, then you may feel that your economy car isn’t up to snuff. But who is making that rule, your friends, or yourself? You may picture in your head that they gossip about you when you’re not around. It’s probably not true, but even if they do, who cares? If you are happy with your car and your home, then there’s no need to get caught up in a high-school style competition of who has the nicest things. Just enjoy what you have and try not to keep score so much.
Sometimes there is also a need to please people that we think have some sort of emotional authority over us. Many people have mothers (or fathers) for whom nothing seems good enough. Parents can hold their children to impossibly high standards, and even if the reasonable part of you knows that you’ll never be able to do things the way they want, somehow it doesn’t stop you from trying, and driving yourself crazy when you can’t succeed. Chances are, your mom probably isn’t as amazingly efficient as you think she is, anyway. As we’re growing up, parents can seem like infallible superheros, and this is often an image of them we find difficult to let go of, even after we become adults. It may be hard to stop comparing yourself to the way that you perceive your mother, but sometimes an honest and frank discussion between the two of you can clear up a lot of misconceptions you have about each other. In any case, even if she does have an impossibly rigid set of standards that she adheres to, once you are an adult you are capable of making your own decisions about how you want to do things, and not berating yourself if it isn’t exactly the way your mother would do it. You are two different people, after all, and there’s no reason you have to compare yourself to her.
If you feel unhappy with the things you have in your life or the way you spend your days, ask yourself if it’s true unhappiness, or instead if the source of your discontent is a constant struggle to be the same as other people or live up to a standard you have attributed to them. There is no problem with wanting to better yourself, but accepting what you have right now and being thankful for the person you are is one simple way to turn anxiety about getting ahead into a sense of contentment and excitement about whatever the future may hold.