Why do we compare ourselves to others?
Have you ever thought: "if I stop comparing myself to others then I'll never improve?" Me too. It makes sense right? The problem with this line of reasoning is that when you try to better yourself by comparing yourself to others, you will always end up finding an area in which you fall short. We tend to see what we are looking for and even if you didn't fall in the trap of assuming others are better than you without checking there's bound to be something another is better than you at.
As a result, you can feel deflated, demotivated and even give up before trying. Even in the best case scenario, you will spend the energy you could have put to good use by improving your skills feeling sorry for yourself instead. It sounds like a losing game doesn't it?
So do yourself a favor: only compare yourself to yourself yesterday, a week ago, last year. And here's the trick: focus on where you have improved, not where you fall short.
Why focusing on your faults does not help you
So why is it not a good idea to focus on the areas that 'need work' and to berate ourselves for all the things we have done wrong and still haven't gotten round to fixing? After all, we cannot ignore what's wrong with ourselves, or we'll never get anywhere! Right? Wrong.
The problem with this way of going about things is that what you focus on expands. Think of the mind as a garden. You can choose what to plant and nurture. Would you want to plant weeds or an apple tree? Whatever you feed in yourself with the amount of attention and energy you give it will grow, so if you want more apple trees stop planting weeds everywhere!
Think of the mind as a garden. You can choose what to plant and nurture. Would you want to plant and nurture weeds or an apple tree?
How to transform the Inner Critic into an Ally
That inner voice that is constantly criticising you is your Inner Critic. Trying to silence it does not work. So why is this inner voice so relentlessly negative and why can't you get rid of it?
The inner critic is a part of you that is trying to help you, though often it does so in a dysfunctional way that is not helpful. This part of you is an internalised parent figure which will talk to you in a similar way that your primary caregivers talked to you as a child. So if they were encouraging and positive, the inner critic would be an ally, but if they were negative and critical, then you could have a toxic parent on your hands.
So what do you do with that? You train it to be a little more kind, supportive and nurturing. Here's how: every time you notice that inner voice being particularly harsh you acknowledge that you are in need of parenting right now. Then you ask yourself: is this way of talking to myself helpful? If not, what would be more useful? Stop, listen, and then repeat the new kinder message over and over. In time, your inner critic will ease up.
Alternatively, if you are a creative type you could make him/her into a character and have dialogues with them whether it is via writing, painting, acting or movement until you reach some agreement that satisfies you both.
Why self acceptance is a prerequisite to learning and growth
Imagine you wanted to live in London but lived in Edinburgh. What would serve you best: spending all your time angry and upset about the fact that you now live in Edinburgh or accepting Edinburgh is where you are right now so you can begin to plan steps that will eventually take you on the journey to London?
If you don't accept where you are right now you condemn yourself to stay there forever. When you accept who you are now is ok regardless of what faults you give yourself a chance to move forward. How? By becoming curious about what you are doing right (or what is good about the situation you are in) so those aspects of yourself and your situations will begin to expand, offering new opportunities to move in more positive directions.
When you accept yourself, you also free up negative energy previously spent in berating yourself to learn new skills!
4 Simple exercises to actually better yourself
For a detailed explanation of what these are watch the video below
Give these exercises a try and stick with them for at least 21 days. This is how long it is to learn a new habit. Remember that practice is what will make a difference.
If you need help transforming the inner critic into an ally you may need extra professional help. Feel free to give me a call and discuss your case with me in detail.