Find What Empowers You

How to stop comparing yourself to others

Comparison permeates our society down to a subconscious level. We know measuring our own success or value against other people is unproductive, we set goals to focus on ourselves, we try to recognise the unique character of our pathways through life. Yet, this is much easier preached than put into practice. From bloggers who have seemingly mastered the Instagram algorithm to friends with enviable wardrobes and social lives, we find ourselves disheartened by our own relative ‘shortfalls’, because stepping back and observing the bigger picture – the futility of pursuing something superficial – on a day-to-day basis can be a tricky skill to master.

I’m all too familiar with this phenomenon and have been since a very young age. Growing up in Russia, every little girl aspires to be either a gymnast or a ballerina at one point, attending countless clubs and practicing for countless hours in her spare time. I did too, I tried my hardest and aspired to stardom, but just did not have the genetics nor an immaculate sense of rhythm, flexibility or grace required to enhance an audience – as much as I to this day am awestruck by anyone who does. Equipped with the power of hindsight, I know my talents lay in other areas which family members such as my mum and grandma tried to refine, but because my social circle measured appeal through your competence in the performing arts, the length of your hair, the size of your dad’s car, I started life feeling somewhat undervalued.

How to stop comparing yourself to others

Moving to England settled me in a society which is much more lenient, a meritocracy which emphasises social mobility and equal opportunities for everyone. It was a shock to the system. But, ‘young people culture’ is quite similar everywhere, in the sense that children and young teenagers champion certain traits and ostracise those who behave, look or speak differently. Beside the pressure of integration (learning a new language and customs from scratch), I saw myself as inadequate in comparison to people with enormous social circles and girls with a reputation for their external beauty. Once secondary school started, this atmosphere of competition became much more pronounced. I was neither a fabulous extrovert nor gifted with the voice or looks of an angel, and made myself miserable in the pursuit of happiness supposedly associated with such attributes.

Moreover, the advent of social media didn’t have the best influence on me in my early teenage years. Back then, I didn’t see platforms such as Instagram as sources of positivity and a network of likeminded people, but as a showcase of people I perceived as infinitely better than myself. While being far from the primary cause, social media hindered my eating disorder recovery in many ways. And even as I started college, with those dark days behind me and much more accumulated wisdom, I questioned why I wasn’t as objectively pretty as the girl with 200k followers, while changing my personality to fit what I perceived to be societal definitions of ‘likeable’ (a futile endeavour – people sense fakery. You are much better off being yourself and attracting personalities similar to your own).

Find empowerment

Find empowerment

(Yes, my attempt to take blog photos was met with unfavourable weather conditions and 200mph winds but let’s admire my attempts at the windswept look, lol)

In summary, I spent hours comparing myself to people who are objectively different to me, both in their purpose and pathway through life, but possess traits enshrined within society. At a certain point, however, I thought: ‘this is actually kinda pointless’. I stopped wearing heavy makeup, I reduced the amount of time I spend online, I focused on what mattered: my studies, my self-development, the people I trust and love with all my heart. And this change of mindset has had an unprecedented impact on my overall happiness.

Now I will propose a question which must inevitably be asked: is comparing yourself to other people in any way always a bad thing? I don’t think it is. After all, we are encouraged to find role models for a reason, and potentially become role models ourselves. Looking up to other people with whom we share values and aspiration is empowering and allows humans to learn from each other within a spirit of solidarity. However, the key mistake we make is looking up to the wrong people, and for the wrong reasons, not in the sense that what those people are doing is objectively unworthy but because it has little relevance to neither your individual capabilities nor vision of an ideal future. To illustrate what I mean: between 2015 and 2017, while grinding towards the completion of my IB diploma which was the main objective of the time, I spent a few months working my makeup skills up to ‘grammable’ standards and made myself quite miserable in the process. Of course, if you want to be a model or a makeup artist, that may have been a worthy investment of your time. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with matching societal ‘beauty standards’, whatever they may be, but anyone who doesn’t (aka, the vast majority of us – I’m yet to figure out who commands these standards, and until I do, they shall lay firmly in the eye of the beholder) must try to recognise their ambiguity to avoid a lifetime of discontent.

How to become empowered

I guess the key message to derive from the above arbitrary mess of a ramble is: search for what empowers you. Discard all that evoked doubt and bitterness. It is okay to see other people as positive examples, but destructive to question your worth because of them. But, how do we actually go about turning comparison into empowerment?

  • Search for role models who have a direct resonance with your values, career aspirations, ideal qualities, instead of chasing after something irrelevant simply because it’s championed as a prerequisite condition to happiness. Embrace your individuality and remove negative influence from your life, which can involve anything from unfollowing certain accounts on social media or distancing yourself from particular groups of people.
  • Complementing the above point, you must have a clear understanding of what success and happiness (which should go hand in hand) look like to you. Have you been conditioned to believe that a certain thing will lead to inevitable satisfaction, or arrived at such a conclusion on your own accord? A good test is to analyse whether you enjoy the means as much as the ends; does the process make you as happy as the outcome?
  • Attitude matters. After visualising what our idea of success looks like and finding the right role models to look up to, try to do so with admiration and a drive for self improvement in your heart, not jealousy. Instead of spiralling into self-denunciation because so-and-so is richer than you, or has a better family life, or a successful blog, observe the habits and philosophy which allowed them to achieve this. Then, find ways to integrate them into your life and unique circumstances. Do not copy and accept that you cannot, and shouldn’t want to be, an exact replica of that person, but can nonetheless learn from their experiences.
  • Gratitude matters just as much. All of us are familiar with the importance of loving the present moment and the ones which have led up to it. The future is awe-inspiring, but while we should strive for continuous self improvement, taking a moment to reflect on what you’ve achieved thus far in life and (for example) write down three things you are grateful for as part of your morning routine is a key tool to acquire an optimistic, productive mindset.
  • Excuse the worn-out metaphor, but we only see the tip of the iceberg of someone’s life, a glamorous preview stripped from complexities. When your mood is dampened by the perfection of someone’s existence, the beaming faces and designer footwear scattered through their Instagram feed, acquire a skeptical outlook and remember that the extent to which social media portrays real life is, at best, questionable. The stability and content you see in public does not portray what happens behind closed doors and inside people’s heads. Moreover, we are rarely exposed to the struggles leading up to a final outcome and the hand work exercised by your role models in the pursuit of their goal, which creates the illusion of success happening by luck, or overnight.

Inspiration, moreover, can be found everywhere you look, not just within living people (although they are nonetheless significant). I find empowerment in historical figures and events, in recurring themes and lessons: the need to account for the practical realities and constraints of your circumstances in the pursuit of grander objectives, that the capacity of individuals to have an impact is not to be underestimated, the mobilising power of language. When you read (and you should, because certain written pieces are capable of transforming our world views in their entirety), focus on each sentence and think about the message espoused by the author; find empowerment in both non-fiction and literary characters, who often embody a set of beliefs which either accelerate or impede their development.

How to become empowered

Find what empowers you

The natural world itself can be empowering in its lack of prejudices or lies – each one of us can draw a lesson applicable to our identity from the Earth. Observe seasonal change, the wind’s raw momentum, the ebb and flow of the ocean across a pebbly beach. This is why I like to go for walks whenever I feel frustrated or uninspired: as well as distancing myself from technology and unnecessary information for a few hours, I find myself charged by new energy when I return home. I’m not an overly spiritual person, but think we can learn a lot from our planet and avoid negative comparisons by sometimes looking beyond people for empowerment.

Where to find inspiration

To summarise this slightly unstructured post: if you struggle with comparing yourself to others take some time to determine what empowers you insteadwhat reinforces your motivation to succeed and achieve wellness in all areas of life. This can be anything from role models to fictional character, religion, intricate forces beyond our control. Subsequently, replace sources of unwanted negativity either physically (such as unsubscribing from a particular channel on YouTube or quitting an activity you no longer enjoy) or through thought patterns with an assured edge. I have struggled with comparing myself to other people for a long time, and often still do because the possibility of doing so is everywhere and tricky to avoid. However, I have learned to tune into my own aspirations and skills, trying to recognise that surface appearances often mask a different truth, all while questioning why we are inclined towards morose comparisons when seeking empowerment and accepting our uniqueness would be a recipe for a much better world.

Let me know in the comments: how do you deal with the tendency to compare yourself to others, and if so, how do you fight against it? Who, or what, do you find empowering?

How to stop comparing yourself to others and find empowerment

Lots of love, Maria ♡

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56 thoughts on “Find What Empowers You”

  1. This. This. THIS! Preach it beauty! And you are beautiful inside and out! These pictures are stunning and your message is so important. I grew up in a ridiculously small town where everyone compared each other and in many ways tried to bring others down. If you shunned the status quo you were looked at as strange (like when I moved to a city) instead of the fact we are all unique and we all want different things. For me (and I admit, there are times that emerald burst of jealousy roars its’ head) I genuinely try to be happy for people who are more successful (because there will ALWAYS be people more successful) and instead of wallowing, I look to see what they are doing that makes them so successful and if it will work for me. Sometimes it will. Sometimes it won’t.
    Now I am rambling. This is such a great topic and I am so happy you wrote this beauty! Thank you!<3

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh thank you very much for reading and for your lovely comments! I think when you grow up in tightly knit communities, whether that’s in school or your family or your town in general, the temptation to compare is everywhere. But, I love what you said about being happy for successful people and using them as inspiration, because self-deprecation is never helpful in the pursuit of self improvement. Thank you so much for reading and I hope the rest of your week is amazing 🙂 xox

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  2. You are SOOOO beautiful and I love that dress!! This post is amazing (as always) and AMEN. It’s so important to focus on who YOU are and what YOU want – what makes you the best version of yourself? Anything that makes you feel like you can take on the world is what you should chase after and what other people think of that is their problem, not yours. Fantastic post as always – thank you for sharing this! xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh you are too kind – thank you so much for your words, they really made me happy. And I couldn’t agree more, in the long run we should listen to what our heart and mind is saying as opposed to people who don’t have the best intentions. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you’ve had the best day xxx

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  3. Omg these pictures are stunning! And could you be any more beautiful?? Such a powerful post, it was so thought-provoking and honest.

    As for your question, how I deal with comparing myself to others, I think I am generally just more aware that everyone is an individual and should be perceived as such. A comparison could only really be accurate if every aspect and circumstance of the situation were the same. Of course, I don’t think one can ever fully stop drawing comparisons and that’s okay, as long as they don’t impact the way you see yourself. If those comparisons are pushing you to work harder and achieve more, then compare away! I think it’s all about balance and acknowledgement.

    Wonderful post (as always) Maria! xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I’m so happy you liked it and thank you very much for reading 🙂 and I know exactly what you mean, I think it’s difficult to eliminate comparison from our lives entirely but also unnecessary because sometimes all that is needed is a change in attitude – looking up to other people with the intention of being inspired to better ourselves 🙂 Xx

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  4. Poweful post!

    I’m similar in that an outdoor hike seems to set everything right, and you realize how small your problems are in relation to the grand scheme of things. The quote “Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake,” is so true.

    When it comes to the tendendacy to compare myself to others, I just try and focus on self improvement, and remind that no one’s perfect, and appearances are seldom the whole truth about anyone. Plus it’s wasted energy.

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  5. It really surprises me to read about your insecurities because if I was a teenager or young adult, I would see YOU as one of the beautiful people that I could never be in the same group with. Now I’m looking at my own “middle age” hiking buddy peers wishing I was as fit and strong as them. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Incredibly relatable! Comparison of the self to others is very easy with constant access to social media and the lives of others around the globe. I’ve definitely felt like you have. You write very well, and I connected to your words. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and inspiration on the matter! 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. While the internet can be a wonderful thing, it really does facilitate comparison when we are overwhelmed with so much information all at once. Thank you so much for reading and for your lovely comment – I’m glad you liked this post 🙂

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  7. 1. You are a really great writer! I could see myself in many of your situations. I, too, wanted to excel in the arts and in sports but never quite made the cut on those things. 2. Young people culture is one of the most frustrating parts of society! I was never the pretty one, the hipster one, and the list goes on. And the time I spent trying to be those things left me feeling empty. Thankfully, now that I have married and entered a whole new stage “adulthood”, I am very much removed from that culture. I think you made a good point that comparing ourselves to others in order to be motivated and inspired is not a bad thing to do. As long as we find fulfillment in ourselves, and not on how others perceive us, then comparing can be okay. And I think you are right that gratitude is so important! We need to be thankful for our life that we are living right this moment. Cause life goes by fast, and we don’t want to not be present for it.
    xx
    Courtney || https://courtneylivin.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much – that really means a lot to me! Obviously, I feel so happy for people who are naturally gifted in art/sport and who ‘fit in’ to their social circles, but I think society needs to emphasise that there isn’t a right or wrong way to look and act. It definitely feels good to have outgrown that stage in my life and I am happy you have as well, which has obviously allowed you to achieve a lot. And the ability to express gratitude for the present moment can have an enormous impact on our mindsets because it allows us to appreciate the uniqueness of each moment. Thank you very much for reading and for your lovely comment. xox

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  8. this was so beautiful to read and so on point! even though i kinda believe instagram is dying a bit because nobody really posts everyday anymore, its still a struggle everyone faces with – comparing ourselves to the perfect girls with perfect feeds and thousands of followers. we often forget that is it curated to be perfect and nobody really displays their messy real self, which is often why we think we fall short in comparison. but really everyone is so different!!! i love how you pinpoint to find what we love, what we want to do, and where we shine because it is a good reminder of oh so important things that we often seem to just say but not actually do, so thank u!! ❤

    a fucking look

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I definitely do think that Instagram is in decline in the sense that people are much more aware of the way images are curated to convey a certain ‘lifestyle’, but it’s very easy to forget that on a day-to-day basis. We really must keep in mind that everyone is unique and no one way of existing is superior. Thank you very much for reading 🙂 xox

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  9. Ok wow this post is so freaking amazing!!!! I love the idea of turning comparison into empowerment and all your tips were so great. it is so easy to be sucked into the comparison trap, and for me, that is comparing how fast my blog/Instagram is growing (numbers wise). I know this doesn’t matter, but ugh sometimes it is so hard to wrap your head around that. I can’t wait to remember this post next time I’m comparing myself to someone or something 🙂

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    1. Thank you very much Olivia! So glad you liked it and found it useful. And I know exactly what you mean about blogging/social media, but it’s important to do it for yourself, write about what you love and understand that numbers are far from the whole story. It’s a difficult thing to keep in mind, but I guess we just have to try our best!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Maria, I am consistently blown away by your writings! It may seem unstructured to you the author and critic of your own hard work but it is marvelously composed, relatable, and compassionate. Unfortunately society makes money off of insecurities and our nature to compare. Commercials and advertisements tell us we need to be wrinkle free, fat free, have this degree, drive this vehicle and so on. I find reducing my intake of sales pitches and inauthentic sources of influence aid me to keep rooted in truth. A yoga teacher once said before class “do not look at your neighbor to compare but to learn”. A sentiment I have always valued as there is much we can learn when we omit trying to measure up and instead taking what inspires us and leaving the rest. I must tell you, you inspire me to be a better writer, to form my thoughts more clearly and have a more concise deliverance. You are amazing my friend! x

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow, this comment seriously made my day! I think you are a fantastic writer and I am always blown away by your photography, so this really means a lot to me. While I think most of us are aware of the commercial incentives behind the promotion of comparison, it’s very difficult to avoid the subconscious influence of this and that’s why surrounding ourselves with positive role models is even more important. And I absolutely adore that quote – we can learn a lot from other people while allowing our own unique characteristics to shine through. Once again, thank you very much and I hope you are having a great day so far. xox

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  11. I loved this part “the key mistake we make is looking up to the wrong people, and for the wrong reasons, not in the sense that what those people are doing is objectively unworthy but because it has little relevance to neither your individual capabilities nor vision of an ideal future.”, what a great post. On my part, I don’t think I suffered from comparison as much as the young girls from the newest generation, because I discovered social media and Instagram way later, when I was already an adult. Even now its not a part of my everyday life, and I truly think the key to a good mental health is to distance yourself from everything you can see. Only take the positive, and leave the rest behind 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much! I really do believe in the power of finding good role models for ourselves and being mindful about negative influence. I’m glad to hear that you haven’t suffered from comparison too much, and I can definitely agree that being weary about the subconscious influence of social media is very important. 🙂

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  12. As per usual, another amazingly well written and well thought out post! Such an important topic as well. I wonder if we ever really grow out of our insecurities, but rather learn to ignore them better as we age. Growing up I definitely felt inadequate and compared myself to the girls around me. Going to a small school it’s crazy to realize that there’s more out there in the world and more than one type of ‘cool kid’. Loved hearing all your thoughts on this, thanks for sharing!

    Shann Eileen | http://www.shanneileen.com

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think that is definitely the case with many people: we understand that insecurities are impossible to eliminate and instead we learn to accept ourselves regardless. It’s such a shame that many people are conditioned to compare themselves to others from a young age, but the best we can do it recognise how harmful it can be. Thank you very much for reading and for your comment 🙂 xx

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  13. I love this post! I had noticed myself recently comparing myself to others a lot more and it really takes you down a negative spiral! So it was really nice to read a post that talks about this and provide insight into recognising it and how harmful it is. I definitely want to spend more time working on myself and accepting myself than on social media constantly feeling like I need to be like someone else! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been feeling that way but glad that my post could help – recognising how harmful comparison is is often the first step towards fixing the issue, as well as seeing the way social media engenders negative emotions. Thank you very much for reading and I wish you all the best xox

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  14. HOW DID I MISS THIS POST? It has to be one of my favourites of yours yet! Amazingly well written and SO DAMN RELATABLE. I’m glad you broke out the trap of trying to be like other people; like you said, it never works – and it makes you miserable. Plus, you’re pretty damn fantastic how you are! Really enjoyed your tips too 🙂 xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so glad you liked it lovely! Comparison hardly ever leads to anything positive and it’s a very important habit to break. And thank you very much – you’re a wonderful human being yourself!! 🙂 xox

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I loved reading this blog post, Maria. I think it’s such a minefield, especially growing up with social media. When I was a teenager, it was Piczo and MySpace, but the same feelings applied; why don’t I have as many readers as this pretty girl, etc? Do I not look good enough?

    I think you’re spot on that it’s not wrong to look up to people, we just have to draw some boundaries in our minds about what we’re looking up to and taking from them and I think that’s very hard. At 25 years old, I’m still trying to figure this one out, but I think I’m getting better at it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While the internet can be a fab place, there is no denial that it engenders comparison and insecurity among young people. We have to work towards making social media a more empowering and positive place for sure. I’m happy to hear that you are getting better at finding the right role models and I wish you all the best for the continuation of that journey! Thank you very much for reading 🙂

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