Do you engage in comparisons with others? Very frequently we engage in the thinking error of comparisons. We compare ourselves to others. It is a natural human thought pattern. We are institutionalized into this system of thought via the grading system in schools, class rankings etc. In popular culture and mass media Miss America pageants, and the Super Bowl among others are huge events which are all about competition and comparisons. Additionally, job applicants are in a competition, vying for a limited number of open positions so employers engage in comparisons. Our system and culture have inculcated this, and though competition in not a bad thing per se, judging ourselves internally via comparisons is not useful for us. The problem with a comparison mindset is that the opportunity for comparisons never ends, “I am smarter than she is,” “He is better looking than me,” “they are doing so much better than I am.” The problem with a comparison is that it implies that your own worth is questionable or negotiable. When we do this, we are continuing to test our own value, constantly measuring ourselves against others. If we come out on top, then we have a moment’s relief, if we come up short, we have yet again found a way to diminish ourselves. This feeds into negative self-talk can take all kinds of permutations. It can also lead to self-pity, depression low self-esteem and self-worth.
This is a form of personalization, comparison, is a basic cognitive behavioral therapy thinking error. It also can stem from a “confirmation bias” which is a tendency to search for, interpret, focus on, and remember information which is consistent with our preconceptions. If we have a schema that says to ourselves that “we don’t measure up” we are constantly engaged in that behavior. It was probably inculcated in us a long time ago, and we continue this pattern into adulthood. The problem is that it gives us no rest. How long do we want to engage in this kind of thing? I have lifted weights for 30 years. I learned long ago that comparisons in the gym are futile. There will always be someone bigger and stronger and more muscular. The only comparison that matters is me to myself. Am I improving from where I was? It doesn’t matter what others are doing. This gets into self-validation which will be the subject of a future blog posting, but essentially, we need to be our own validators. We need to be in control of that dialogue internally. Engaging in comparisons is normal, but it is almost a no-win game and doesn’t allow us to flourish as healthy individuals. When we do encounter that mode of thinking we need to engage in thought stopping and just shut it down. Compare yourself to yourself and if the comparison is negative use it to gently nudge yourself into action. If the comparison is favorable, use this as encouragement that you are on the right path and continue your progression. As a therapist in Burbank, Beverly Hills and Rosemead I have encountered this thinking error many times. If it is trap that you find yourself frequently falling into then contact me and let’s work through this together.