How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

To all of you dear WOMEN.  Yes, this post is for you!  (And your husbands can read along, too. We are just so glad many of you are reading!)

I wanted to address a few requests that have come in regarding a MAJOR, MAJOR TOPIC, I think, for women all over the place…. 🙂


And, HELLO PRETTY BLOGS!  HELLO GORGEOUS FACEBOOK PHOTOS!  They have a tendency to start up that damaging script in our heads that says we are not good enough/smart enough/creative enough/skinny enough/desirable enough, etc.  There is just so much access to other women & their lives, outfits, homes, parties, etc.  And it seems more than ever before, women all over are plagued with comparing themselves to others, all along their self-esteem is deflating.

A dear reader wrote in to say that she struggles to find a balance between tapping into her true identity & worth (mentioned in the post called “Best Beauty Secret in the World“) while at the same time, balancing her desires such as…

-Being super model-thin.

-Being the girl with the best outfit at the party.

-Being rich.

-Being flirtatious with men.

-Being famous for something.

-Living in a nicer house.

This reminds me of some of the comments brought up in the response to the “Highlights from Alt Summit” post regarding comparing each others’ fashion.  I know it’s so easy to fall victim to this crap whether it is comparing husbands (or lack thereof), the size of your butt/thighs/waist/boobs, comparing children’s accomplishments, the success of others, how quickly someone lost weight after having a baby, or even how much of that dessert you finished compared to other women sitting next to you at a girls’ night.

Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about my answer to this reader and my answer to all of you.  For starters, can I just say, with all sincerity, that you women….ALL OF YOU….are wonderful.   I haven’t met a woman yet in my entire life who was not a beautiful human being with either the biggest heart or the best intentions to offer something good to this world.   One of my greatest wishes ever is that we can all tap into our worth & end this horribly damaging cycle of comparing ourselves.

I know you can end that cycle.

Because I did.

Here’s how….

I finally decided what I REALLY, REALLY wanted out of this life, and I surrendered to it.  Completely.  I gave all of my heart to it.   (By the way, I decided to do this when I was at the most rock bottom state of my life – in the midst of a crumbling marriage and the early years of infertility.)

This is what I decided I wanted the most & clung to it for dear life:

1.    To be a good mother someday.
2.    To be a good wife, worthy of a good husband.
3.    To share & give all that I have to helping others on their path.
4.    To leave this earth a better place for being in it.
5.    To be happy & at peace, regardless of circumstance (cause it helps me to do all of the above.)
6.    To try to represent those Divine qualities of love/faith/hope (cause it helps me to do all of the above.)

I realized that if I let all that comparing bull crap infiltrate my thoughts & life, then it would hold me back from having #1-6 of my most important goals.  You see, the bull crap doesn’t fit into #1-6.  So I decided to work each day to give it up.

So how did I give it up?  LOOOOVE !  🙂  🙂

-THINK OF OTHERS, INSTEAD OF YOURSELF.  When I walked into a room – whether it was a room full of billionaires & their wives (a situation I was in quite often due to my former jobs whether I was in New York, on a beach in St. Barths, or celebrating Easter on Rupert Murdoch’s sailboat, or sitting next to the founder of Google at brunch.  Ha!), or whether it was a room full of executives in the fashion industry, or a room full of women at church from all backgrounds, or a room full of young urban teenagers with wit and style that could intimidate the crap out of me, if I let it…….Instead of thinking of MY inadequacies, I thought about how I could make others comfortable, how I could get to know them better, how I could brighten their day in some way, or how I could just experience what they had to offer and learn from it.  Thinking of others and taking my thoughts off of myself left no room for damaging thoughts.  TRY IT!  I promise it works like a charm.  And it’s a great way to ensure you look and feel radiant.

-EMBRACE THE BEAUTY & SUCCESS OF OTHERS.  Instead of letting the success of others bring me down, I feel excited for for them.  I feel special/grateful to be able to associate with someone so talented/creative/or successful.  One reader wrote in to say that a friend of hers has “the perfect house, kids, figure, & entertains like Martha Stewart.”  She said “other women find her intimidating and avoid her friendship.”  But this woman has formed a great friendship with her and loves her dearly & thought it was so sad that other people were missing out.  So don’t miss out!  Surround yourself with people that you admire.  Reach out to them, love them, and learn from them.

-GIVE UP THE COMPARING OUT OF LOVE FOR YOUR LOVED ONES.  If you are dwelling in negativity and self criticism, guaranteed it will spew over to your husbands, kids, boyfriends, girlfriends, family and coworkers.  You can’t really hide that stuff.  And guess what – – it’s not attractive.  It doesn’t lead to happy marriages and relationships.  So if you are letting your desire for skinniness/riches/fame/attention make you feel negatively, think of the poisonous negative energy you are sending into the world and the effect it is having on others.  Consider that you are teaching your children to live this way as well.  Use your love for others as a catalyst for trying to change your ways.  Love really is the most powerful force that can help us to stay on track.

-HAVE LOVE & GRATITUDE FOR YOURSELF.   Think of every kind word that has ever come your way.  Think of every person you have influenced for the better.  Think about HOW BLESSED you are!!!!  Eyes.  Hair.  Walking legs.  A smile.  Family.  A chance to be alive and experience this beautiful life!  Maybe you have a mother.  Maybe you have a spouse and/or children.  Maybe you have a friend.  Maybe you have a roof over head.  No matter who you are, think of what you have and cherish it.

And lastly, if any of us have a weak moment and find ourselves comparing the crap out of someone else’s life & wishing we had more…….THINK OF VERUCA SALT.  🙂  This girl had everything, but was never grateful for it & always wanted more……

“All I’ve got at home is one pony, two dogs, four cats, six bunny rabbits, two parakeets, three canaries and a green parrot and a turtle and a silly old hamster!  I WANT A SQUIRREL!  But I don’t want any old squirrel!  I want a *trained* squirrel!”

“I want a party with roomfuls of laughter, ten thousand tons of ice cream.  And if I don’t get the things I am after, I’m going to screeeeeeeeEEEEEEEAM!!!!”

-Veruca Salt, Willy Wonka.


Do you guys have any other ideas for how women can stop comparing themselves to others??

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  1. Anonymous January 31, 2012 at 7:36 am - Reply

    I would just say that I am often guilty of comparing myself to others. While I have never have any issues with being unhappy for people who seem to have great things happening to them or great family lives, I appreciate it and love to express my thanks to them for being such great examples or telling them how proud I am if they do something great. It is rewarding to me to be able to share that love and praise to others. I have to stop in my tracks and tell myself that while people seem perfect… We all know very well that everyone has trials that are not shown to everyone. I believe that having the mindset that no one is perfect but everyone is striving to is the best way to view others. Don't get to sucked into other people's facebook pictures and blogs, because most people like to share the good, so that is what we see. When we are happy with ourselves, we can be happy with and for others.

    • mara January 31, 2012 at 6:03 pm - Reply

      Anon – Thank you for sharing. SO TRUE! When we are happy with ourselves, it's even easier to be happy for others. If we find ourselves feeling jealous – it's just a big clue to us to work a little more on our own self worth… 🙂

  2. Anonymous January 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    This are related to your suggestions, but may I add that doing some real good in the world for people who truly need it is an excellent way to feel your self-worth, and to feel gratitude. I spent time volunteering in a poor country ten years ago and to this day clean running tap water makes me feel rich. No need to leave the country, there is an ocean of need all around us.
    Another great way to get perspective is to get out in nature. It puts the trivial stuff out of mind, and the important stuff in perspective. And after hiking all day with a heavy pack, no one leaves any dessert.

    • mara January 31, 2012 at 6:29 pm - Reply

      Anon – -I LOVE THIS!! Your ideas are really, really good.

      Living in NYC has had a similar effect on me in a lot of ways…visiting people in the projects…working with youth in NYC…seeing a lot of people suffering in a multitude of ways. And then living here requires a lot of physical labor – it is different than being in nature (ha!) but you end the day feeling physically tired and accomplished, as if you had just been hiking. It's like more people are concerned about "survival" (paying high rent, doing laundry) and there's little time to compare yourself to others.

  3. Anonymous January 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    When my now 18 year old son was a little boy and was acting up in stores I would whisper to him "you sound like Veruca"…it worked like a charm!

  4. KShonk Designs January 31, 2012 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    What a great post. Facebook is such a great social tool in some ways and can be such a ego killer in others, but only if you let it. When you are looking at fab vacation photos, perfect family photos, gorgeous kids, it helps to remember that there are no pictures of the fights, money struggles or potty training and sleepless nights. We are all human beings with normal issues and just because you can't see them doesn't mean they aren't there. I am also a big believer in my personal mantra,"If you see it, you achieve it." Write down what you want, keep it in your mind everyday and be positive! Thanks for posting!

  5. The Snows January 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    This is a fabulous post, and when I read it I immediately thought of President Uchtdorf's Forget me Not talk. He says, "God is fully aware that you and I are not perfect. Let me add: God is fully aware that the people you think are perfect are not." He also draws an analogy to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – waiting for our "golden tickets" to be happy. I have read several times a book titled "On Earth as it is in Heaven" by Elder Holland and his wife Pat Holland. Her insight and chapters in the book are such a wonderful perspective on womanhood, and I would recommend it to anyone. I wanted to share a little excerpt from it that touched me. "Our Father in Heaven needs us as we are, as we are growing to become. He has intentionally made us different from one another so that even with our imperfections we can fulfill his purposes. My greatest misery comes when I feel I have to fit what others are doing, or what I think others expect of me. I am most happy when I am comfortable being me and trying to do what my Father in heaven and I expect me to be." I find that this is something that I need to step back and remind myself of often. Mara thanks so much for this blog and all those that share comments. It is very uplifting for me and always great things for me to ponder and relate to my life.

    • Laurie January 31, 2012 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      great comments! I too have read the book On Earth as it is in Heaven, and it does give such great perspective to life. Thanks for the reminder, i am going to go get it out. I completely agree that when we are doing what we are supposed to do, we are happy. When we are living like God intended, we are happy. Everything else that we have (and it's a ton compared elsewhere) is just frosting on the cake. We are all so blessed. We just need to show that gratitude and reach outside ourselves and let that inner self SHINE. Thanks for the reminders 🙂 and thanks to Mara too, great post!

  6. Elizabeth January 31, 2012 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    I find the best thing to do when I find myself envying someone is asking myself how I can be more like them. How can I use this person as a role model? Sometimes it is something I want to do, like complementing others or using more patience with my kids. Sometimes it isn't worth it to me, get up at 5am to spend two hours at the gym? No thanks. Either way I get to choose what my outcome will be. Does she have great legs? Sure! Do I envy her five am trips to the gym? Nope! So I get to choose what works for me. I have been in the position where people have envied me (my husband makes a good income) and it is so ugly. I want to tell them about all the sacrifices we had to make to get where we are now but it was obvious they thought we were just "lucky" so that they could envy us without having to do any of the work to get to where we are. Obviously there are circumstances beyond our control sometimes that make certain things possible for some and impossible for others but if we can feel blessed by what we do have, I truly believe more blessings come our way. I find that so many negative emotions come from a place of lack. That when we view our lives with abundance we stop thinking about what she has and I don't. We realize there is more than enough for all of us if we open our heart and our minds to it.
    I was actually reading one of your posts about your hair. At first I thought oh my word her hair is gorgeous! I wish my hair was like hers! And then I read what you do to it and I felt gratitude for my low maintenance ponytail that gets me extra shut eye and a warm meal on the table for the kids each morning. Maybe I 'll try your technique on a date night some time but for now I will just admire it on you 🙂

    • mara January 31, 2012 at 6:39 pm - Reply

      YESSSS! I loved this. This is one of the things I learned from a dear friend who is training for the Olympics as a runner… she took a break from hard core training to focus on family. Her competitors were getting ahead of her and training…but she decided she was ok with that, because the sacrifice of training at that time was not worth it to her. (Though she just had a baby and I believe the timing is good for her now…and she's right back to her training!!) Anyway, I agree that the things we envy usually would require a MAJOR sacrifice…it helps so much to remember that & then decide if we still feel envious (I learned this while being an entrepreneur, too! Oh my…learned it big time…it's such a major, major sacrifice of time and money.)

    • Seriously Not Pregnant February 29, 2012 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      I loved what you said: "the things we envy usually would require a MAJOR sacrifice…it helps so much to remember that & then decide if we still feel envious." This really helps me keep some things in perspective. I would love to have a baby, but it is a major sacrifice, and mothers lose A LOT of sleep. Still, it is a sacrifice I would love to make. Other things I envy, though, like those who can run marathons, require a lot of time, hard work, and pain. Not so envious of that right now.

  7. Anonymous January 31, 2012 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    I think our inequalities are really limited to this life alone. I think in the next life, while we do have talents and personalities, we will be much more equal in every, every way. Everyone on this planet is more imperfect than they will ever be again. For some reason, Heavenly Father wanted those "who have it all" to have it all (though, of course everyone has challenges), perhaps to test their pride and/or gratitude. And other people to have not so much, to teach them other things in life. But really, how we really are, is not people with it all, and without, but a whole bunch of people with a whole bunch of potential. As I've seen even things such as personality change with PMS or diet, I realize that even things such as that that is so much of "who we are" really isn't all that much who we are after all (so and so has the bubbliest personality, so and so's husband is the nicest to them, etc.). I think physical factors come into major play, and so will be dissolved in the next life.

  8. Sara January 31, 2012 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    I really think the best way to stop comparing yourself to others is by realizing that no one has it all together all of the time – no matter how much it may seem that way. Even the "perfect" women out there feel some insecurities, want friendship, worry about their children and are trying to do their best in life – just like each one of us. I wake up every morning and try to put my best foot forward, and although some days don't go exactly how I want them, I try not to let myself get defeated by thinking that so and so has it all. I may not have everything – a perfectly thin waistline for example – but I do cherish all of the other amazing things that I do have. This allows me to not focus on what others have that I don't and instead focus on all of the joys in my life – keeping me from comparing myself to others.

  9. Cecilia January 31, 2012 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    I love this, particularly the part about embracing other people's successes. It's nice to be happy for others. I got a very small promotion at work and none of my friends were happy for me. They took the opportunity to compare me to my predecessor and have extra high expectations of me in my new role, and maybe they thought that was fair game since they knew me so well. I don't know. But I see it all the time. A friend gets engaged. Her friends are only excited about it in a negative way (as in, "I'm so happy she finally got what she wanted…they've been together for such a long time I kept wondering when they would move on to the next step.) This is poisonous.

    That's a long-winded way of saying I agree with your 2nd point 🙂

    I also think a good way to beat jealousy is to really try to get to know people past a skin-deep level. Ask what their childhood was like, what their family is like, what their hobbies are. You may find out the most interesting things that help you think of someone in a whole new way. The model tall woman may have been a basketball star with no fashion sense and no dates all through high school. But that's cool, and interesting. Everyone has a deeper story to tell. The doctor's wife may have traveled a long road with that doctor as he went through his residency and internships. Everything is not all roses, but it's the little differences we find out about people that make them all the more fascinating…and less the objects of our jealousy.

  10. Angel Court Jewels... January 31, 2012 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing.


  11. Elizabeth January 31, 2012 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    Great post. So necessary. There is a talk about judgement, and I forgot who it's by or what it is called, but the speaker tells us there is judgement where we look down, but reminds us too there is judgement looking upward.
    When I am crippled with admiration/envy, I try my best to combat it by being candid. ie. "I would love to write as well as you – could I invite you over for lunch and have you look at my work?", ie "I look like a T-Rex when I jog and I feel embarassed – do you have any tips? Did you ever feel that way?"

    Sometimes, however, I've been exposed to people's all-consuming envy/judgement/criticism/self-hatred/disappointment, etc. and felt like something else was at play. Often legitimate pain from the past is aggitated under stress/pressure. A visit with a professional counselor might be very helpful. An objective person that you can vent to, unload your fears to, expose what you feel is most unattractive about your life – can be incredibly helpful. If you feel like you can't shake judgement ( and/or self judgement), set aside a bit of money to finally feel better. (most counselors will work with you on price according to income – try not to let the cost or discounted cost hurt your self esteem. And search around for a good counselor.)

    • lisset January 31, 2012 at 6:04 pm - Reply

      Elizabeth, I'm so glad that you brought up a counselor. I happen to be the wife of a psychologist so my views may be biased, but I think having an objective person in your life (whether that be a professional, or a church leader, or a close friend) is so, so helpful! As women, we tend to have intense internal dialogues about our worth and many times either don't share those feelings out of shame, or we engage in self-hate talks with girlfriends that leave us feeling worse, not better. (OMG. I'm so fat. No you're not, I am…) Finding someone that can listen to, validate, and then help us expose the untruths in our thinking in a gentle way, I think, goes a long, long way to finally overcoming the tendency we have to compare ourselves to others in way the hinders our progress as women.

  12. Gabriella January 31, 2012 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    I really appreciated this post. Thank you for sharing… It's food for thought that I hope to carry with me for a good long while.

  13. Maria January 31, 2012 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    OK, one of your best posts so far! I love the point about focusing on others and helping make them comfortable in social situations- I'm just learning this and it's so freeing!

  14. L January 31, 2012 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    Mara – I really love this! And you're so right. I notice that all of the nuggets of truths you share here (and in so many of your other posts) are based in Biblical concepts, so I know why they have produced fruit for you. This has made me want to dig into my Bible for some verses that remind me of these very truths, so thank you!

  15. Anonymous January 31, 2012 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Mara, what would you do about a sister-in-law that makes you feel bad every time you are with her? Small digs, little subtle insults that sound nice until you realize what she really said, bragging about her vacations/horses/boat/home upgrades/etc., just generally making sure that I know she is better than me and that maybe I'm not good enough for her brother. I mean, this is how she makes me feel, and I have a hard time not having resentful/mean feelings towards her because I always walk away from her feeling inadequate in some way. How would you handle your emotions and can you recommend ways to make my relationship with her better and my feelings for her better??

    • Anonymous January 31, 2012 at 6:53 pm - Reply

      Have you ever considered that she may insult you because she sees something that you have that she envies? It is entirely possible that despite the many things she has in life, she lacks something you have (say a happy marriage perhaps) and feels the need to belittle you in order to feel better about herself. I have met a person like this and after a long time I learned to just understand that I was grateful for what I had and didn't need to worry about what she thought of me because she had things that she needed to work through. I tried really hard to simply be as nice as possible to her and after a while the situation resolved itself.

    • mara January 31, 2012 at 7:09 pm - Reply

      Anon – I know situations like that with family can be so difficult. I recommend reminding yourself over & over that this person is suffering on some level (or she wouldn't be behaving that way.) It makes it easier to not take things personally. AND, when you are thinking of her instead of you, it's easier to even cultivate some compassion for whatever it is she is going through behind the scenes. It takes a lot of inner strength to do this, but it's possible…and it's empowering/liberating to not be controlled by someone else.

      Another quick tip….before the next encounter, plan ahead. Think about the scenarios that are likely to come up, and be ready for them. Be ready to blow it off and to not let her sting you in the moment. Go into the situation having some compassion for her before she's even let loose…it will give you some extra strength/power to be around her in those situations that may not be avoidable.

    • Anonymous January 31, 2012 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      Oh my gosh I feel for you sister, I have the same problem with my sister in law always bragging, small digs, looks like she is being nice to you in front of others but you feel the sting, boy do I know what you are feeling! I've tried being nice and she uses it to elevate herself above me even more the better I treat her the more it feels like she likes it and almost uses it to push me down further kind of like a (know your role) and that role is beneath me sort of thing, so frustrating!

    • Anonymous January 31, 2012 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      Thank you for the good advice and understanding! I forgot to mention I have been married for 16 years – so this problem has been going on for a loooong time. I know that this late in the game she isn't going to change and that I need to be the one to change (how I respond, how I feel, how my mind plays her insults over and over again) so that I don't spend the rest of my life feeling bad about myself every time we have a family get together. You ladies are so nice – I wish you all were my sister in law! 🙂

    • Elizabeth January 31, 2012 at 11:01 pm - Reply

      Anonymous – I think I could lend you some great tips.

      I have a stepmom who married my Dad when I was very young. As a little child, I wanted her to like me and find me delightful but she didn't. She was critical and put me down at a near constant rate. My uncle whispered to me once that we should play a game where we count in our heads how long it takes her to get mad at me (I was too intimidated to join his game, but the highest he got that day was maybe 11 or 13 seconds) I wasn't able to really breathe comfortably in a room with her until my late teens.

      As time passed things improved.

      In my early twenties we happened to be alone together and she brought up the past – which made me nervous. She told me how I had been a cold as a child and that it was ME who didn't like HER. (???!!) I had never uttered a peep of disrespect to her which she acknowledged. But instead launching into a disagreement, I just listened to her. Because I was hearing that she didn't feel included by me and even though it's not fair to put that responsibility on a child, I think it's very understandable and I appreciate how very intimidating it must be for a stepmom.

      So I made a real change – I made it a priority to really include her and think about her. I sent her a few cards and flowers for successes at work. I asked her questions about her likes and dislikes, about her family and growing up (she doesn't really love to talk about this, so I back off). She often talks ABOUT things – like your sister in law. Which I now believe is a sign of deep insecurity. So when we are together I try to make memories for us – so rather than talking about things, we are doing things and experiencing things.

      Maybe the next time you are around your sister-in-law you could invite her to something a little different/adventerous. Something that neither of you have done before or are good at. It will give you two an opportunity to see each other in a new way and to make a memory together. I think you should get her into the car for an errand and say, "wanna go skydiving?" or "I'm sorry I need to pull over to skinny dip – back in ten" or take her graffiti-ing.

      Ditch the talk – you've tried complimenting her/she's put you down. Remove words from the equation and do some action. Make a new relationship – get new things to talk about.

      What do you think of that?

  16. Rik January 31, 2012 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this post. I think most suffer from feelings of inadequacy at some point or another. It's hard not to when you're surrounded by amazing people! I loved all of these tips and am going to share it with my friends. Thank you!

  17. lisset January 31, 2012 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    A great book/resource that I read over and over again that touches on this subject- The Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute. Love this post Mara. Such great food for thought!

    • Jane January 31, 2012 at 7:35 pm - Reply

      I was thinking exactly of the Arbinger Institute. The verbage they use that I try to keep in my mind all the time is "I matter the same as him/her. I don't matter more and I don't matter less." Meaning, our hopes, sadness, and experiences matter the same.

      I love how Mara says to reach out people you admire, love them and learn from them. When sitting next to the founder of Google, you think "I matter the same as him" and then doing what Mara said- being friendly and comfortable is so much easier. And chances are he's going to like you!

      Now having said THAT- I think sometimes our defense mechanism for feeling inadequate is to over-compensate and console ourselves with our strengths and others' faults. This is when I must remind myself. "I do not matter more."

      Thanks for another great one Mara! Oh and since I think I forgot to mention this before Danny, I think you could BOTH work for Arbinger. You should apply. 🙂

    • Lynley Jill January 31, 2012 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      Love The Anatomy of Peace. Also, The Bonds That Make Us Free by C. Terry Warner. AMAZING life-changing read.

  18. Anonymous January 31, 2012 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    While sitting in church a couple of sundays ago I came across a hymn I have heard a dozen times but there is one line that puts what we are talking about into perspective rather well…"in the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see", I don't care how rich, beautiful, talented, etc. someone is, WE ALL have things in our lives that bring us pain and hurt because after all we live in an "imperfect world" called earth. Keeping this in the forefront of my mind lately really helps me to realize why should I compare myself to this person or that person when I know they may have some type of pain in their life even though I don't see it on the outside.

  19. M January 31, 2012 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    While I've struggled big time with these feelings — and still do from time to time — I feel overwhelmed more often lately by the opposite burden.

    I am really happy right now and my life is going really well. But because of my own heartaches and past hard times, I've realized that EVERYONE suffers and has pain. That realization is really hard to bare. Like the previous poster said, "In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see." So true. Since I know about heartache, I feel so bogged down worrying about everyone else's problems. She seems so perfect, so her sorrow must be hidden deep. How can I help? Her husband is such a jerk, her sorrow must be all-consuming, how can I help. Etc. Plus I think I have a little "survivor's guilt." I have learned so much, especially the love of God and how to be happy. Not that I'm judging or that I feel "better" than them, but I just feel a serious amount of compassion for all of their suffering. How to not make it consume me? How to "mourn with those that mourn" and share my light without detracting from the joy I feel?

    Thanks for all you do! How do you do it?!

    • mara January 31, 2012 at 7:59 pm - Reply

      M- I feel a lot of compassion, too, and my heart is always so big for anyone facing something difficult (especially when they don't have the tools/experience to handle it), which is why I started this blog…BUT…maybe I have an unusual acceptance for the fact that trials are a part of this life. I've learned to not resist them so much in my own life and I don't feel an intense agony for others, either. I guess I just wholeheartedly believe that trials are just part of this life here & they have a purpose. Each one is an opportunity for us to learn & grow & develop….and sometimes it takes multiple trials for us to budge. So, I try to just be "still" with myself & others…to assist, love & help…and to also feel a bit of hope that this trial could be the one that makes a difference in someone's life. It may not be…it may take many more…but that's ok. At least someone's path is in motion. And it's just beautiful to be a part of it in any way.

    • M January 31, 2012 at 10:42 pm - Reply

      You are so wise. Thank you. That helps a ton.

  20. Anonymous January 31, 2012 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    love this list!
    I would add this: something that I have learned over time is that there are unique qualities that each of us have, and they are all different. We each can learn so much from each other and there is no comparison between each other because that is like comparing apples to oranges. We are all so different with such unique skills, abilities, personalities and we are meant to be that way so we can grow and learn from those around us. If we all looked the same, acted the same and had the same abilities we would learn NOTHING from each other. Plus the world would be really boring. So instead I find that it's important to be grateful for our unique selves and tap into that, by not trying to be someone else, but by learning from others skills that we may want to cultivate; all the while becoming better people as we strengthen our strengths and learn from others strengths as well.

  21. Lizzi January 31, 2012 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    This post reminded me of this picture…

    This might sound a little weird, but the way I protect myself from comparison wars is by allowing myself to be really gullible 🙂 If someone's pictures of their house, or themselves, or their families look perfect then I just assume that to that person, they genuinely are perfect! They aren't focusing on the negatives in their life and are probably just relishing the beautiful things that they have. And that's pretty awesome.

    But really, you don't need many other tips, because I think you pretty much nailed this 🙂

  22. Anonymous January 31, 2012 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    A couple of years ago I decided to focus my life on having charity. Having a pure love for myself and others all of the time. The more I studied my religion, the more I realized that having charity- pure love- in your heart is really the answer to it all. In learning and reading as much as I could about charity, I found in a sunday school manual a list of ways that we can have more charity in our lives, and one of them was "avoid thinking you are better than other people". That sounds simple but it was a breakthrough for me. And the more I thought about it, I realized that it also meant, "avoid thinking that other people are better than you". Because that's not charity either, if you love others but not yourself.

  23. chinkara January 31, 2012 at 9:44 pm - Reply


    Did you know that your thoughts can create physical treads in the brain? That's why, when you think of something often enough, It becomes easier and easier to think. Can you imagine if you think "I suck" every day? Well, you will, indeed, suck.

    I still think that meditation is the most useful tool my father ever gave me. The positive affirmations in matras turn your outlook around.

    That said, no one is immune to these things, but you can be. I often think of the Dalai Lama when he said, "in order to contemplate life, you must first start with death." It's a profound and freeing statement. If you think of yourself on your deathbed, reflecting back at life. What do you want to see / feel / hear / remember?

    Comparisons to others melt away. Love takes its place, which is the most powerful emotion.

    Next step is learning to say, "good" to negative experiences. Try that one! You get laid off – Good! It's hard, but also allows you to rise above.

    PS. Facebook sucks and is not real life. (I do like knowing when you have a new post, tho)

    • mara February 3, 2012 at 6:00 am - Reply

      Chinkara- this comment rocked my world. LOVED it, my dear wise friend.

  24. Mac January 31, 2012 at 9:48 pm - Reply

    I know I'm just reiterating what lots of people have said here. In the last few years I have truly come to understand (through my own trials) that everyone is going through something and that no one has a perfect life. And if they do, I am happy for them. No one should wish trials on anyone, so I am happy for people who have it all. But for the vast majority of the people out there, they don't really have it all no matter how much it looks like it from the outside. And I've also come to realize that I'm too tired to care how I compare to other people. I've just been working on how to be confident for myself. Dress how I want to dress. Get inspiration from others on hair/style/organization/relationships and then make it what I want it to be. I have lots of ideas about how I want my life, but I'm too tired to do most of them. And I leave it at that. My sleep and emotional well being are more important to me than being super stylish or hosting ridiculously unique parties.

  25. Amanda February 1, 2012 at 3:02 am - Reply

    Wow – spot on. I wrote the original comment to which you referred in this post. While it seems the majority of comments are focused on comparison, I must say that my original intent was a different direction; however, this post has truly given me clarity.

    Here goes: I don't necessarily struggle with comparing myself to others. Moreover, I struggle with comparing my life to the version of my life I have imagined. In that version, I should/could be thinner, richer, prettier, have accomplished something grand, in a more fulfilling marriage, etc.. It's the idea that not only do I want more, it's the idea that I somehow DESERVE more. That I'm entitled to a life squared and anything that falls short of that leaves me wanting.

    As I was reading through your post, I was struck by the concept that your happiness solutions seem to revolve around a core concept: I call it being Christlike. Others may call it charity, or giving to the Universe what you hope to receive. Regardless the title, it means centering your life on what Christ did with his – reflecting the love and beauty he saw in his fellow men in his own countenance.

    I only take this religious angle because for my own perspective it's valuable. As I read what you wrote, I realized the age-old problem of wanting one thing but spending all your time and energy doing something else. I love blogs, I love Pinterest, I love The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Keeping Up With the Kardashians. But I spend less than a fraction of the time I spend watching, blogging, reading about mid-century modern homes on growing my spirituality, on pondering ways to make my marriage stronger, on filling up my online shopping basket for pretend and then not purchasing (just for the thrill) and knowing myself on a spiritual level. I want it to happen to me; not willing to make it happen for myself.

    Succinctly: You reap what you sow. I suppose you become the person you want to be when you spend time and make the conscious decision to actually be that person. Constantly chasing after other's lives or joys will lead to endless emptiness – I know because I've felt it.

    This turned out too long; I apologize. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. As I said in my original comment, what makes you such a bright spot is that you turn your light on others.

    • danny February 1, 2012 at 4:56 am - Reply

      Amanda – That was a truly FANTASTIC comment…my goodness you nailed it! And, though Mara and I were aware that we were not responding entirely to your original question (we thought broadening would make it more accessible to more people) we knew that ultimately our answer was the same thing anyway. I'm glad you were able to see that too!

      What's great though, is you've drawn extra conclusions that were not necessarily intended but are totally accurate. I think the part I love the most about what you wrote, is in the 4th and 5th paragraphs…because that is exactly the epiphany my father had at around age 55. He is and always has been a truly good man, honorable in all he does, kind, and full of integrity. But he also never felt a strong spiritual connection…he was "waiting" for the spiritual part to just happen as a natural result of generally good decisions. When he wondered why he hadn't experienced what others seemed to know, when he was still questioning whether God cared about or even knew him…he also experienced a fear that maybe he was just different…that it had happened for others but wouldn't for him. He thought maybe it was punishment for not serving as a missionary like so many others had.

      It was when I was serving as a missionary myself that many of these fear he held came out, as did a little envy for some of the great experiences I was having. I wrote him a letter telling him basically what you wrote "Dad, you succeed at everything you do…you are respected in your practice and have accumulated great professional knowledge, in your private life you are competitive and win more sailing races than you should (consider he races solo while others have crew), and you accomplish literally everything you set your mind to. Have you set your mind to spirituality? Have you actually determined you're going to succeed, or are you just waiting for it to come to you…because nothing else in your life has just come to you, so why would you expect this to."

      He's since told me, probably a few times a year, that that letter was the catalyst for his spiritual awakening. For finally putting his time and efforts towards what he claimed all along he wanted but had not invested in. You truly do reap what you sow. He was always a good man, but to know him now is to know someone not just good, but truly great. He has a fullness and satisfaction that was previously missing.

      Anyway, like I said, you've nailed it, and reminded me of one of my favorite stories of "redemption"…that of my own father. Thank YOU for the great comment.

  26. Eva / Sycamore Street Press February 1, 2012 at 3:58 am - Reply

    Such a great post! and it was great meeting you at Alt. I was sitting next to Steph (of Stephmodo) and she kept talking about how excited she was to meet you and how great your blog was, and now I can see why! (I'm always a little late to the show, it seems.)

  27. erin m. February 1, 2012 at 4:23 am - Reply

    What an important post, Mara! Comparison and jealousy are such poisons in the lives of women. We HATE them, but for some reason, we keep doing it! I think you have made some really important points here.

    I will say, that a woman who is confident enough to rejoice with others in their successes and giftedness, without making it all about "ME", is so radiant! Right? We've all seen those women who are able to put themselves aside for a moment, and they are irresistible. Plus, it is Biblical! 'Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.'

    I know I struggle with this area a lot, but this is so inspiring and reminds me of the bigger picture. When we are living for something greater than ourselves (whether that is God, family, justice, peace, morality, etc.), we're able to live as radiant women who aren't in competition.

    I've always told my youth group girls that girls have so much power. Why are they so mean to each other? If they worked together, loved & encouraged each other, IMAGINE what could happen! It would be beautiful. So let's live that! 🙂

    • danny February 1, 2012 at 5:00 am - Reply

      Erin, so profound, and thank you for working to teach that to the youth! I loved this:

      "When we are living for something greater than ourselves (whether that is God, family, justice, peace, morality, etc.), we're able to live as radiant women who aren't in competition.

      So perfectly true. When we live for something greater than us, there is only joy in others successes because they represent that something greater we are both seeking to obtain. Competition fades away and only rejoicing remains!

  28. Chelsea February 1, 2012 at 4:31 am - Reply

    Aren't we great at comparing ourselves at our worst to others at their best? We set ourselves up for disappointment when we do that! I remind myself that each have different strengths and at different times. Each person is at a completely different phase of life; this allows each to focus on different areas.

    I could say more but I'm writing a comment, not a post, eh.

  29. Tiffanie February 1, 2012 at 6:12 am - Reply

    These are great words of advice. If you put your mind to it, you really can turn all that stuff off. I wasn't at Alt, was dying watching the twitter feeds from it and posts after it, but instead of dwelling in the envious feelings I was getting, I grabbed onto the inspiration from it. What it looked like from where I was sitting was that people who have embraced being themselves have gone far. We are all individual, we are certainly all beautiful in one way or another, it's better to be different than the same, in my book.

    I just spent the last year studying and performing burlesque, and that experience has opened my eyes completely to accepting and embracing my flaws, as well as the flaws of those around me. If you feel good about what YOU do, you'll find you won't compare yourself as much.

    Also, I LOVE the photo you used for this post!

    corner blog

  30. Amanda Blair February 1, 2012 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    I needed to read this. I am constantly comparing myself to others and feeling like, "well of course they have those things because they are better than me". I get down on myself all the time for not being funny enough, smart enough or creative enough. But you are so right the only thing I can do is be the best me that I can. Only I can be Amanda Blair and there is value in that!

  31. AliveintheFire February 1, 2012 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    Beautiful post! I find it ironic that we're on the same blogging wavelength today… I hope you'll check out my reflections on playing the comparison game and how it relates to my yoga practice 🙂

    Isn't it amazing what can happen when you surrender to acceptance and love instead of fear and judgment?

    rachel @ alive in the fire

  32. Karen February 1, 2012 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    I haven't read all the responses, but I'd like to add that just because other people *appear* perfect, it doesn't mean their lives are in fact perfect. I will admit to, at times, comparing myself to my sister (who is gorgeous, a great mom, has a happy marriage, really seems to have it all). This week we learned that my niece (one of her daughters) is developing some mental issues – truly scary stuff (she's only 8 years old). I can't believe what my sister is going through. Although my heart is breaking for her, it also makes me so grateful for my life and makes me realize that things really aren't so bad. I just wish it hadn't taken this situation for that to come into focus for me.

  33. Kara Simmons. February 2, 2012 at 5:26 am - Reply

    Every women really needs to read this post. I loved it! Certainly something I needed to hear. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  34. kelli may-krenz February 2, 2012 at 6:05 am - Reply

    You are wonderful!
    I love this. I absolutely connect with your words. I love that you used the word crap. So perfect! I am now following your words and blog. Grateful I am. Kelli

  35. Anonymous February 3, 2012 at 8:19 am - Reply

    I love this one: "we're comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else's highlight reel" (especially with blogs and facebook)

  36. Lisa February 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm - Reply

    What a thoughtful and beautiful post! I have been struggling with negative self-talk and comparisons for a long time and am working really hard on developing new strategies/practices to change this self-destructive mind-set. I really liked #1 of your list of advice – to think of others rather than yourself. When I over-analyze, project and compare, the focus is completely on myself and rarely on how I can make someone else's life better. I can see how shifting that perspective could make a huge change in how we show up in the world. I have been reading your blog for a while now and appreciate your honesty and depth so much. Thank you!

  37. Utah Girl Am I July 12, 2013 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    I've been feeling a little socially overwhelmed lately and came to ABAL, because I remembered this post and the "6 Tips for Single Women" post, annnd they definitely hit the spot. Thank you for your wise and thoughtful words over and over again! One of my very favorite things about blogging is that it's like having a conversation with a friend, but when the conversation ends, you have a transcript of it saved to the worldwide web that you can consult over and over again. You guys are the best! 🙂

  38. Anonymous February 15, 2014 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    Thank you, this really made my day and gave me great insight on how to stop comparing myself to others!

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