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14 Things That Happened When I Compared Myself to Others

14 Things That Happened When I Compared Myself to Others

I’m talking about comparing myself to “successful” people. People who have achieved things. Things that I want to achieve. They’re the kind of person I aspire to be like. Seemingly, they have it all: money, success, fame, happiness. But… do they?

If you’re comparing yourself to others, and you’re not getting a whole lot of satisfaction from it, read on:

1. I forgot my “why”

I stopped focusing on me and started focusing on them. I thought I wanted what they had. But did I actually want it? Was I just letting jealousy blind me? No and yes. Because I was focusing on them, I started making poor decisions, or, perhaps worse, no decisions, because I just didn’t know what direction to go in.

2. I became demotivated

There were a few times that I actually ended up laying in bed in the fetal position. I wish I was kidding. Solutions became problems. Everything was an obstacle. I couldn’t see a way forward. A few times, I was close to giving up.

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3. I wished I was them

They’re just so successful and rich and have everything they want… why wouldn’t I want to be them? They were already where I wanted to be. So far down their own path. I was jealous. But, did I even stop to think whether or not they were actually happy? Nope. And isn’t that what really matters? For me, absolutely.

4. I forgot that everyone has their own path

Everyone’s different, but it’s a truth we all seem to forget from time to time. I certainly did. I know who I am, and I’m damn proud of it, so why am I trying to copy someone else? I’m not them. They’re not me. If you find yourself trying to copy someone else, have you even bothered to find out who you are?

5. I thought I wasn’t good enough

“How did they do it? How have they achieved so much?” I would often wonder. It’s ok to respect achievement, but I was in danger of becoming so in awe of it that I’d think I could never achieve something like that. Not a fun place to be, and an extremely limiting one. 

6. I rushed

I wanted to speed everything up because I wanted everything they had RIGHT NOW. Deep down, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. The people I was comparing myself to had been working their ass off for years to get where they are and have what they have. Now, it was my turn.

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7. I forgot to be happy

This is an important one. I got so caught up in trying to achieve and make progress no matter what that nothing else even mattered. Not even being happy. I just totally forgot to be grateful for anything. Like the fact I was pursuing a dream. Like the fact that there’s people who would do anything to be in the position I’m in now. And, like the fact that, actually, I’m a happy person.

8. I stopped living in the moment

I was always thinking about the future. When will I “make it”? What will my life be like? This is, of course, very useful to think about from time to time. But I was rarely living in the moment, and it’s hard to be happy if you don’t (trust me. And, if you don’t trust me, trust the research!)

9. I forgot I was in control

When I was comparing myself, I sometimes gave that control away because I’d look at them being so successful right now and I’d feel a bit hopeless. “How will I ever get there?” But then I (chose to) remember that this is my life and I’m the boss. I’m the man. I can make whatever choices I want, whenever I want. So I’ll keep choosing success.

10. I thought they were lucky

A tempting way to think, perhaps, because it conveniently ignores all the hard work they put it and the fact that you could replicate that if you really wanted to. What an outrageous excuse. They’re successful because they’re lucky. Really? Do you think successful people blame luck for their success? Or do they blame themselves?

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11. I forgot that amateurs call it genius, and masters call it practice

I let myself think that all these successful people were somehow blessed with an abundance of talent that allowed them to get where they are today. In actual fact, they just worked really damn hard and never stopped. There’s all sorts of evidence these days suggesting that natural talent barely matters. So what does? Practice. And a lot of it. Being a genius isn’t a requirement for success, and I wasn’t going to continue to use it as an excuse.

12. I forgot that I’ll absolutely, unequivocally, get to where I want to be

Of course I will. This is my dream. This is what I truly want. And, unlike a lot of people, I’m actually getting off my ass and working for it.

13. I forgot that everything takes time

As Warren Buffett once said “You can produce a baby in 1 month by getting 9 women pregnant.” A fun experiment though, I reckon.

14. I assumed they’re happy

How did I know they were happy? I didn’t. How could I? I had to remind myself that being rich doesn’t make people happy. We all know that. But, them being successful (in my eyes) doesn’t necessarily make them happy, either. They might not even like their life. I would hope and think they do, but there’s no way of me knowing. They’re rich and successful on the surface, but what else did I really know about them? Nothing. So, being envious of them is pointless. This one was a good lesson for me.

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To conclude…

Comparing yourself to others isn’t a problem unless it’s a problem. If, by comparing yourself to them, you become inspired and motivated and take action, awesome. If, however, you become demotivated, depressed, and unhappy, then that isn’t quite as awesome.

You are good enough and you damn well know it. Stop letting other people control how you feel and determine your worth. That’s up to you. Who are they to you? You don’t even know them. Do you think they’d be happy knowing that you’re comparing yourself to them and getting depressed? I doubt it. How would you feel if you were them?

This is your life. You’re the only one who has to live it. When you believe you’re good enough, when you know you deserve to have what you want, you’ll never compare yourself negatively to anyone ever again.

(If you don’t believe or know that, just read this: The 3 Things That Will Give You Stronger-Than-Iron-Man Self-Esteem.)

Featured photo credit: mgstanton via flickr.com

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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