Why “Don’t Compare Yourself to Others” advice is wrong.

There are manifestos and social media posts galore that warn you of the dangers of comparison.

It’s a killer. It’s toxic. It’ll drown you in a sea of not-good-enoughness. Run away from the Beast Called Comparison!

Actually, no.

Comparison can be a teacher. Comparison can be a benchmark for your progress. Comparison can be a vision of where you want to go; motivation that inspires you forward.

Comparison itself is not inherently “evil” or self-sabotaging. It only stunts our possibilities when we relate to it through the Old Paradigm, which looks like this:

Comparing myself to others proves that they’re better / smarter / prettier / cooler / healthier / wealthier / more important than I am.

Comparison didn’t create that equation. We did. We identified and oriented ourselves to comparison in that way. And just as we chose that then, we can choose differently now.

What might happen if your relationship to comparison was remixed to be more in line with the New Paradigm, which looks like this:

Comparing myself to others gives me information and inspiration.

Many of the popular narratives around comparison assume that when you put one thing (or person) next to another, you’re immediately inferring that one must be more worthy than the next; that those things are obligated to compete and measure their good-enoughness against one another.

Maybe this comes from our cultural obsession with singing “competitions”, dance “battles”, and writing “contests”. Maybe the billion dollar gaming and athletics industries have leaked their There-Can-Only-Be-One-Winner mythology out onto the rest of us. Maybe it’s the repeated attention that our educational systems give to wars and battleground nostalgia. Maybe it’s some collective past life pain working itself out. I don’t know. What I do know is this:

Comparing myself to others has been a way for me to reframe the limiting stories that had previously nullified my self-confidence.

Hearing other women’s stories, scrolling through their Instagram selfies, watching their creative, entrepreneurial and spiritual journeys, has helped me gain valuable insight into my own.

By putting their stories alongside mine, I found similarities that affirmed my choices and potential. I found differences that helped me understand why I was working so hard and making so little progress. I uncovered unconscious patterns and beliefs that had never even remotely occurred to me until I drew the comparison between her story and my own.

Comparing myself to someone else isn’t something my ego is forcing on me. It’s a leaning towards my own evolution.

Definition of comparison: to examine in order to note similarities and differences.

Did you notice that the only verb there is “to examine”? To look. To consider. To reflect upon. Comparison can be a death match, or it can be an exercise in curiosity.

Comparison can whittle down your self worth or function as a lighthouse to guide and encourage you. It can be a full frontal devotion to widening your field of vision by appreciating and learning from the soul models all around you.

This orientation to comparison could lead you to revelations like:

My thighs are pretty much identical to hers, so if she thinks she’s hot-sexy-fine, maybe I am, too.

She started her business on credit cards, so not having a fat savings account doesn’t necessarily have to hold me back.

So I’m not the only one who’s not sure about being a mom? I feel like less of a weirdo now.

In the Old Paradigm, when I compared myself to someone else, I placed every observation on a score card. Every difference I found functioned as a big, red X that said they had the right answer and I WAS the wrong answer. I saw comparison as a measurement of worth. But I was never obligated to that view. I chose it. I learned it.

And then, hallelujah, I un-learned it, and redefined comparison, making it something that adds, instead of a subtractor.

Comparison is like an app you’ve installed on your phone. You decide if / how you use that app, what features you tinker with and which ones you ignore. The app doesn’t decide how you use it – the choice is yours. You get to choose your comparison experience. (Sidenote: This is true of everything in your life. You get to choose.)

Comparison can be a competition, or a motion towards deeper curiosity and understanding.

Comparison can be a one-up game, or an exercise in cheerleading and motivation galore.

Comparison can be a sport of condescension-seeking, or an educational tool that paints possibilities your schoolteachers never offered.

You get to choose your relationship to comparison. Demoralizing or Affirming? It’s up to you.