Start Asking The Right Questions: Why Self-Comparing Will Keep Your Mind In A Negative Place

by Anannya Tripathy

If there is one thing I've learned during my 23 years of living, it's to ask the right questions.

The right questions can be eye-opening and allow you to move forward.

Asking the wrong questions, on the other hand, can keep you in a negative headspace. Continuing to ponder negative questions can leave you feeling stagnant and hopeless.

Consciously or not, many people engage in self-comparison. The age of social media has provided people with a slew of means to take the self-comparison game to another level.

It no longer stops at looks, grades, school, marital status or profession. People now also measure their levels self-worth by the number of Facebook likes and Twitter and Instagram followers accrued.

Self-comparison is a losing battle — you can be easily forgotten when you're caught in the cycle of your thoughts.

Instead of resorting to "Why not me?" and other self-defeating questions, the next time you begin to compare yourself to someone else, keep the following questions in mind:

1. What do you know for sure?

You know he attends an upper-echelon graduate school, but do you know he doesn't secretly wish he'd chosen another career path?

You know she owns a gorgeous, swanky loft in the heart of the city, but do you know that she doesn't go home from her six-figure-paying job and cry for the four hours a day she has to herself?

You know you saw that gorgeous Instagram photo of a couple on their recent trip to Bermuda, but do you know whether the wife uploaded it as she was in the marriage therapist’s office, following her husband’s umpteenth affair?

The truth is, we never know what someone may be sacrificing in any moment, so we can never know if we’d actually like to switch places with him or her.

2. Have you considered that your unique traits and life experiences have possibly made you stronger than a person who you thought to be competition?

You may have better interpersonal skills than someone who has a more prestigious alma mater than you, which may be more critical in landing you a job.

You may have a more appealing personality and, therefore, be a more appealing candidate for a second date than someone who may be better looking than you are.

You may be more willing to take chances than someone who has not experienced or learned from rejection.

Even if your skills don’t necessarily surpass those of someone else’s, it doesn’t mean your less-than-ideal life experiences or traits haven’t given you a competitive edge.

You can choose to focus on that instead of on how your skills match up to those of others.

3. Do you know what motivates this person?

Maybe she’s so obsessed with gaining popularity that she’s willing to put up with an obscene amount of catty behavior.

Maybe she maintains a lithe physique because every minute of every day of her life is spent obsessing over her body and the latest juice cleanses found on Pinterest.

Maybe he has similarly obsessive and greedy tendencies with money and is therefore well on his way to out-earning Mark Zuckerberg.

Perhaps she was married well before you were because she prioritized being married by age 25, 29 or 35 over finding true happiness.

As important as goals are, the quality of your life is ultimately determined by your attitude and what drives you; those aspects directly impact your everyday life. No goal should ever come at the cost of your sanity.

4. Do you know to what resources this person may have had regular access?

Maybe she had constant access to performance-enhancing drugs. Perhaps his parents were Ivy League-legacies and were able to get him in (despite his subpar merits).

How do you know that he doesn't have a family friend who works at a major publication who had more of a role in why they accepted his article than his writing talent did?

Don't use this question to further lament what someone may have that you don't have, but to realize just how incomparable your situations probably are.

Also, take this point to realize that just because someone may have something does not necessarily mean he or she worked for it or has it because he or she surpasses you in any way.

5. Have you ever wondered if this person feels like he or she is enough?

You may feel like her accomplishments are amazing since they’re not yours, but that doesn't mean she shares your sentiments about her accomplishments.

The svelte girl you see may be starving herself, unhappy with her waif-like figure and unable to realize that as long as she’s insecure, no weight or size will ever be good enough for her.

He may attend Stanford, but that doesn't mean he doesn't wish he had chosen another path in life.

Your own life and accomplishments likely seem much more spectacular to someone else -- someone who doesn’t know your faults and shortcomings as well as you do.

Many things in life appear to be bigger and better when they seem out of your reach... but that doesn't mean they are.

6. Perhaps someone's life truly is as good as it seems, and then some. A) What can you do about it? B) How do you KNOW that what makes someone else happy will make you happy as well?

A) Nothing, except you can change your attitude about it.

B) You do not know if having something you don’t currently have will make you happy because you don’t know if all of the sacrifices will be worth it (as they’re probably not all apparent to you).

Closing Thoughts

Remember, a happy-looking Facebook picture is a happy-looking Facebook picture. Good looks are good looks. A job title is a job title. A school is a school. A degree is a degree -- nothing more, nothing less.

They have no meaning in isolation; you assign the meaning. They're not insurance against unhappiness.

The illusion is that our happiness lies within our destination, but the truth is, it lies within the journey. Instead of comparing your fleeting tangible accomplishments to those of others, focus on making your journey a happy, healthy and fulfilling one.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It