Q: How do you stop comparing yourself to others? Or do you ever stop? — 20-something
A. DO compare at work. DON’T compare what you can’t change. Compare the rest with love and caring.
Everything is relative. Some comparison is essential . At work you simply have to keep abreast of what other people are making in terms of salary. And you want to look around at what other people are doing and ask for reviews so you can assess areas where you need to work on and where you excel. But the point is to see where you can improve yourself rather than trying to mold yourself into something you’re not. It’s that which is unique about you that makes you stand out, especially when it comes to your looks and body image. I would say compare yourself to yourself. What makes you feel happy, healthy and smart? Work on the areas where you can change. If it’s someting you can’t change…accept it. Realize that it is just one small part of a whole package. It’s not what defines you. If you think it’s a flaw, forgive it. Love it too. Once you accept it, you may just find out where it fits and forget that it ever caused you stress.
Most 40-somethings will agree that some comparison is good and that you never stop comparing your body or your looks to other women — you can’t help but notice the differences. But don’t obsess over what you don’t have…celebrate what you do have.
“Competition is what drives us to succeed, so I don’t think you should ever stop comparing yourself to others. What you compare and your own self esteem are key. In a career, you should always look at your competition, stay on top of technology, look the part the best you can. There is always someone smarter, more talented waiting around the corner, so you must stay on top of it. Comparing your body/looks to others is way more complicated – everyone does it, but having self confidence is key. Knowing what looks best on you, what you can pull off, and how to handle yourself all come from self confidence. Obviously you are born with a specific body and characteristics – making the most of these and being happy with yourself is tremendously powerful.“ — 40-something, designer, wife, mom, Brooklyn, NY
“No we never stop comparing ourselves to others. Without skinny, there is no fat. Without fat, there is no skinny. Without either of these, there is no average. There will always be someone richer, funnier, crazier, happier, etc… and that’s fine. Cherish what’s amazing about you. Cherish what you love about yourself. Try to improve the things that really bother you about yourself. Keep comparing yourself. Make a list and dedicate yourself to comparisons 10 min a day.( I’m not kidding.) Change the things you feel are important to change. Involve others (close friends, family) in this process if necessary. Just keep it to 10 minutes or you will risk being a complete narcissist! The point is… manage the comparisons since they are impossible to avoid and not really necessary to eliminate.” — 40-something, social work, wife, mom, Los Angeles, CA
“Until we graduate from college (or wherever our studies take us), it is very easy to stay in a competitive mindset – we dwell in a world where we’re surrounded by our peers and are generally trying to attain the same things – grades, social standing, admission into clubs and team sports. But unless one is a professional athlete or performer or running for public office, the “real world” is not about competition. Cliché though it may sound, as individuals our greatest goal should be to live and work to our own potential — and this may look very different from our friend’s, sister’s, or coworker’s potential. We are all good at some things and less good at others – honing our natural skills and making use of our unique talent can lead to a creative and productive life. The real world is about making an effort and doing our personal best, and not about beating the competition.” — 40-something, writer/editor, New York, NY
“My 20s…it was all about what I don’t have. What I could have, what I need to have. And now it is more about wow, I’m so lucky and feeling constantly grateful for what I do have. I do think the gratitude piece is a really important aspect of my program. There is so much, especially in New York City, striving. As you know it’s a competitive place so there is always someone who doing more, who is prettier, thinner, smarter, wealthier and it’s very easy to get caught in this. But there is also someone who is not as smart, not as attractive. If a 20 year old could actually believe. In mu 20s I took everything so seriously. Now at 40 I take things more lightly. If you don’t take things so seriously…if you understand that things can be important…without being serious, you don’t take yourself so seriously. Then it’s easier to not compare. If you can live your absolute best life. If you can be as strong as humanly possible for your life….from the inside out. Let’s just say your overall health and fitness is functioning as well as it could be. If you are kind and compassionate which is a part of living as well as you can…and if you are intellectually alive and will as you can be then there is no reason to compare. You don’t have to apologize or worry about who has this or that or who is better. Because if you are living at your best your mind won’t go there because you are joyful and present. It’s really impossible . . . to get caught up in the comparisons when you are present. You radiate this sort of light …and energy that attracts other like light and energy and then you are fulfilled. It doesn’t even occur to you. In the moment it might.” – 40-something, wellness consultant, entrepreneur, New York, NY
*I don’t think you ever truly stop comparing yourself to others as I think it is part of human nature. The key is to not let it side track you and hamstring you. Fact is, there will always be someone taller, prettier, thinner, richer, nicer, etc…. But, I think, with age, you gain perspective that it’s not about is someone better, prettier, richer….. Instead, I think it’s important to see what you do have, rather than what you don’t. So many people that you thought ‘have it all’ you come to find out really don’t. You don’t see that when you are 20…. It usually comes to light later.” — 40-something, wife, mom, San Diego, CA
“It’s more than just looks. You do realize that as you get older. The people you enjoy hanging around with whether they be your spouse or your girlfriends, whoever they are… you didn’t choose them because of how they looked or because the size of their waist or things like that. I truly believe people should not let themselves get outside of some range of what is healthy. You have these extremes on either end you don’t want to be in. Then once you’re in that range, you’re going to have like bigger legs than one friend and so and so is going to have beautiful hands. This one is going to have hair that grays early. That’s just the way it’s going to be. So once you’re in the range of you keeping healthy, trying to let go a little bit.” — 40-something, executive, wife, mom, Oakland, CA
“Don’t worry about what other women are doing and that you have to look a certain part. I was confident in my twenties but not with men. I interviewed at a magazine and everyone said there is no way you can get that job without experience first but I went for it. and got it. But not with men. Then I felt it was so much more of a meat market and I was like “look at me I’m the funny one.” But with the job I wasn’t thinking about fitting the part, I was just being me. That’s when you are at your best.” – 40-something, married, mom, freelance consultant, Stamford, CT
“I cared much more about how people were judging me in my 20s. Now I don’t have any time to care. And I can see I would have benefited from not caring then. I think now it’s a waste of time to care what other people think. You know the whole my grass is greener. Do I have the right couch – keeping up the appearances. I like where I live. I like how things are and I know that we did the best that we can. Most of the time the most perfect appearances end up being the worst on the inside. The most dysfunctional, and the most troubling. When I was young I wish I would’ve volunteered at different places and tried to help other people and channel all that time and energy that went into trying to buy the right stuff or look the part or go to the right places or go to the right schools into helping others and learning how other people live. I wish I had done the peace core. Anything that makes you look through a different lens, see different perspectives and cultures. I think it would’ve been amazing. You won’t ever do it again. That’s the only time you can do it. Not when you’re married, not when you have kids” — 40-something, artist, wife, mom, Cleveland, OH