We’re all wired and programmed to compare ourselves to, and compete with others – in fact our very survival used to depend upon it.
If we were challenged to a fight or tribal battle we’d need to assess how likely we were to win – then came the fight, flight or freeze response!
We’re still programmed to compete for food,shelter and a mate. No matter how sophisticated we’ve become we still carry that primitive conditioning, and we feel envious of others whom we see as doing better than we are.
However, it’s what we tell ourselves about how well we match up, and how well we’re doing against the competition that matters.
Our bodies release the feel-good chemical Serotonin when we feel dominant and superior, and we are motivated to keep feeling this way.
On the other hand when we feel inferior we increase our levels of the stress hormone Cortisol – which is harmful to the mind and body if it’s around for too long.
Remind yourself that as a mammal your brain is making these comparisons as if your life still depended upon it – but it doesn’t nowadays!
Everyone you know is also a mammal and comparing themselves to others too. If people attempt to make you feel inferior, it’s just because they need to top up their Serotonin levels and haven’t realised they can do that in different ways than trying to be ‘one-up’ on someone else.
When you find yourself in the ‘comparison trap’ simply notice and say to yourself...’Oh, this is my brain comparing me to other mammals to see if I need to defend myself from them.’
Assert your boundaries about what is OK with you and what isn’t. That way you are both clearer - and you give yourself that lovely Serotonin fix without anyone having to feel put down.
If you look for people who have done better than you then you will always find them. You get what you seek and expect. Don’t use that to your detriment. Instead allow it to inspire you to do greater things for yourself too!
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)
Maxine Harley has a masters degree in psychotherapy, has written two books, and created four new approaches to psychological, emotional and physical well-being. She lives happily in Chichester with her daughter and grandson.