Self-reflection is a crucial exercise for growing in self awareness. We all need to step back routinely and take inventory of our thoughts, beliefs, and behavior. However, self-reflection can be deadly if you’re inclined to think negatively about yourself. To grow in self-awareness, you may have to increase your self-esteem.
We usually think of pride as arrogance, as thinking you’re better than you are. But pride can also take the form of self-loathing and beating yourself up. It can mean seeing yourself as worse than you actually are. You can actually become so focused on your flaws that your self-image becomes distorted and you fail to see the good things that are there. Not only is this thought pattern extremely toxic and self-sabotaging, but it also makes you miserable. It’s impossible to be happy and hate yourself at the same time.
To Increase Your Self Esteem, Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
There are usually 3 places we look for self-understanding:
- The past
- The present
- Other people
The past is only helpful for understanding the key events and people that shaped us. It can give us understanding of how we got here, but we should never assume that we’re the same people today that we were yesterday. We aren’t.
The present is a healthier place to spend our energy, because here we can focus on things we can control and change. We can observe the good things happening right now and triumph over our past.
The third place is by far the worst and should be completely avoided. It’s the trap of comparison, and it’s deadly.
Comparison Kills Self Esteem and Success
Comparing ourselves to others is never a good idea. Nothing will kill your joy faster.
If you do it to increase your self esteem, you won’t, because you’ll be operating out of insecurity and criticism. Comparing yourself out of envy is just as terrible because it makes you ungrateful and perpetually bitter. Negativity will consume you either way. You’ll start resenting everyone else to cope with your mounting self-hatred. Eventually you will either become misanthropic or collapse into despair and disillusionment underneath the burden of all the things you can’t stand about yourself.
I’ve seen this happen to people. Nothing is harder to watch, and what makes it twice as tragic is that it’s all based on falsehood. Comparing yourself to others is a lie, period.
Comparison is Always Lying
Allow me to explain, because the above statement is crucial if you want to increase your self esteem.
First of all, you don’t see the whole picture when you look at someone else. You may see a person that seems like they have everything you want in life – the family, the money, the status, the skills, etc. – and deep down you could ask yourself why they have all that and you don’t. If you’re anything like me, the story you hear in your head could go something like this: “They have all of that because they’re better than me.”
But you don’t see what’s going on behind the scenes. That person could be clinically depressed and hiding it. Their marriage could be hanging on by a thread, or worse, it could be a sham. As for the house, the car, and the rest of their goodies, it’s statistically likely that it’s all propped up by debt and will vanish the instant there’s a financial rough patch. This may sound unlikely, but I promise you it’s not. I’ve gotten an up-close look at a lot of people’s lives, and even the healthiest are always messier than they seem.
Secondly, it makes no sense to compare yourself to somebody else because the context of their life is completely different from yours. Everyone’s lot in life is made up of countless factors that we couldn’t begin to fully comprehend: background, personality, genes, circumstances, etc. This means that it’s pointless to look at someone else and think, “That should be me.” No, it shouldn’t. For all you know, you’ve done the best anyone could’ve with the complex tapestry you were given.
This is why it’s not helpful to judge, and why you increase your self esteem when you refuse to think critically. Success for one person is probably completely different than success for you. Another person may be better at public speaking than you are. So what? Who says you need to be as good as they are at that? Besides, there’s no reason you couldn’t get to their level or higher. It could just mean you need some of the practice and coaching that they probably got at some point.
How to Kill Comparison
“Well how do I stop comparing myself to others and increase my self esteem?” you may be asking. It’s a great question.
#1 Start a Gratitude Journal
In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Anchor shares that happiness is a pattern of thinking that can be learned (I highly recommend this read). One of the ways is by taking the time to write down 5 things that you’re grateful for every day. Simply doing this every day for 21 days can create a massive shift in your thinking and increase your self esteem.
#2 Practice Letting Yourself Off the Hook
Not everything that goes wrong is your fault. Sometimes things just happen. Furthermore, even when we do create our own problems, it doesn’t do us any good beating up on ourselves for it. All we can do is acknowledge it, learn from it, and move on. So the next time you make a mistake, tell yourself it’s ok. Forgive yourself. Have some compassion and defend yourself against the voice of the critic.
#3 Every Day, Celebrate Your Wins
Literally pat yourself on the back when you do something good. If you dare, woop out loud. High five somebody and tell them what you did. Raise your hands above your head in a victory pose and smile. If you do this every day after you accomplish the biggest item on your to-do list, you will be amazed how much you increase your self esteem.
Discover What Makes You Amazing
We at the Journey Principles Institute believe that every person has it in them to become unstoppable. For most people, that begins with discovering who you really are. Your self esteem will go way up when you discover the unique gifts you carry the energy you bring to the table that no one else does.
To take the next step, download our E Book, Understanding What Drives You. You can get it right now for free.