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How I Reduced Anxiety By Removing Comparison

A few months ago I wrote a post on The Danger of Comparisons where I talk about how comparing ourselves to others can hurt us in trying to Live Happier. Since it is my year of honesty, I have to confess that after writing this post, even as a high functioning anxiety coach, I still struggle with the monster of comparison on a daily basis. 

In short, I am a Comparison Addict.

There are many things I want to accomplish, writing an ebook/course, recording more videos, writing more in general and reaching more and more clients. I have found especially with my writing, I get paralyzed in comparison. Meaning, I spend WAY too much time online, on blogs, on marketing sites figuring out HOW to do the activity vs just do it. Then I end up:

  • not accomplishing anything 
  • feeling bad about myself because I didn’t accomplish anything  
  • feeling bad that I failed against everyone I compared myself with 

It is an endless loop or wasted energy. And as an anxious overachiever, sometimes I feel even worse about the things I didn’t accomplish.

Over the past few weeks I have been building awareness around this problem and realized it is a multi-layer problem:

  1. I am just wasting time.
  2. I am not facing my fears or working through my anxiety
  3. At the end of the day, I am not living the life I want to be living, I am settling for being paralyzed in the shadows of others.

So I have declared a Week of No Comparison for myself. For one week, I wanted  to concentrate on the many goals I set for myself and didn’t want to  waste time on the internet looking at how I SHOULD be doing it.

Here are the ‘guidelines’ I set for myself:

  1. Check daily blogs but don’t look at random blogs throughout the day
  2. Post to my blogs or social media but don’t randomly check either throughout the day
  3. Check something online when it’s necessary and not for mindless scrolling or reading
  4. Build awareness around when I get stuck. Am I scrolling when I have to be productive, creative, face a fear, or all of the above?

Check email at designated time of the day. Don’t read newsletters or emails that come up throughout the day.

  1. Finally, I will have a lot of self-compassion around this event. I am fully aware I may not succeed at a comparison free week–the goal of this week is to ease up on the amount of time I spend in comparison mode AND pay attention to what is coming up for me in the process.  It is a week of awareness, compassion and incremental change.

I recognize comparison may not be an issue for you. However, no matter what habit or pattern is getting in your way, one of the keys to living happier is to bring awareness, build compassion, and make small meaningful changes. That was my goal, to notice when I get snagged, build in some practices to help me through those times, and have a lot of compassion for myself in the meantime. 

How Removing Comparison Affected My Anxiety

After taking a week to practice not comparing myself to those on the internet, I made an attempt to increase my productivity and decrease my negative talk. As a mental health professional, I WANT to be able to say:  

  • It was a rousing success. 
  • I didn’t compare myself to anyone for at least a week.
  • It went so well that here I am weeks later still successfully non-comparing.  
  • My comparison behavior has been changed down right eliminated.
  • My productivity has skyrocketed.
  • I am healed from comparison syndrome.  

Like I said, I WANT to be able to write that.

But what is the truth?

In reality, I started strong. I was able to limit my comparing for the first week, and then slowly it creeped back in. And before I knew it I was back to some of my old patterns of spending WAY too much time on the internet and using it as a way to feel bad about myself. So as a person who is supposed to be teaching about change and positive changes surrounding high anxiety, I felt a bit like a fraud to say that I have not succeeded. 

But then last night as I lay in bed unable to sleep, I thought to myself “I have changed”.No, I haven’t completely changed, I haven’t totally eliminated the behavior. But I have:

  • Made myself more aware of when I compare myself to others.
  • Noticed when I start heading down the slippery road to comparison hell (sometimes I am able to stop it sometimes I don’t notice until I am too far down the path). 
  • Paid attention to what triggers the behavior, how it feels when I am doing it and have implemented some small ways to change it when I notice it. 

That right there is change for me—admitting that, while yes, I haven’t succeeded in eliminating the behavior–I have succeeded. Because after all, all change is incremental.

Too often we set our goals too high and make them almost out of reach. Basically we set ourselves up for failure.

Honestly, was I going to be able to go cold turkey from comparing myself to others?–no.  Is it a behavior I would like to change?–yes. Is it something that is going to take time?–absolutely.

As I say to my clients, the way to make real change is awareness.  We need to notice the behavior, what triggers it, what the feelings are around it. Often we give into overfunctioning habits the most at work and tell ourselves it is what is required to be successful.

Sometimes we notice the behavior while we are doing it, sometimes within 5 minutes, sometimes within 30, sometimes it is days later we look back and say–wow I totally did {fill-in the blank} on Monday and I wish I hadn’t.

Gradually as we start bringing awareness, and through being intentional change occurs. That is what is happening with my comparison-free time. It may not be all day every day but for larger chunks of the day I am comparison free which in itself is a victory!!

Struggling with Comparison Causing Anxiety?

For a lot of us with high functioning anxiety, comparison is a key trigger that causes us to spiral out into thoughts we feel we can’t control. Common symptoms of high functioning anxiety include feeling like you’re doing enough because you’re comparing yourself—and set yourself up for failure or burn out because of comparisonitis.

Comparisonitis leaves you feeling worthless, inadequate, or like there’s something wrong with you that’s holding you back from the successes you see in others. If you’re nodding your head that you’ve felt that way after comparing yourself and laid awake at night going over and over that negative self-talk afterwards, working on reducing comparison in your life can help. 

You can take some of the same steps I did to get started, like identifying triggers that cause you to start comparing yourself and taking actions to reduce those triggers. Learning how to deal with comparison and the resulting feelings when it happens is another positive step.
Need help or someone to talk to who has been there? Get in touch to learn about my anxiety coaching program that teaches you how to use strategies to help you deal with feelings of comparison.