Anxious Comparison


anxious comparison

Talking recently about envy and the view of wishing for equality a friend said to me,


“what is it about? Do people want to live in a communist state where we all have the same and do everything the same?”


Referring to this point in all situations is a beneficial reminder when you experience anxious comparison. Do you wish for everyone to look identical, for everyone to wear the same clothes, to do the same job, without room for individuality and self-expression?


I have noticed two things that generate these anxious feelings which, when glossed over appear as envy or jealousy. The first is a feeling of being out of control and the second a fixed mindset.


Your friend buys a new car, and you feel instantly jealous, another friend gets a promotion, and it irks you.


It is a horrible feeling and one many of us want to run away from. When you self-reflect you will find it often comes down to one of these situations resulting in a feeling of incapability.


comparison is the thief of joy



Taking Control Reduces Anxious Comparison


jealousyMy first question is, have you chosen an alternative path?


Do you feel bothered by the promotion but work in a different industry? I recently spoke to someone who works in an office and feels perturbed as she considers her headmistress friend more successful. Anxious comparison is like comparing apples to oranges.


You want to be debt free so choose to have one property but feel envious of your friend as you focus on his multiple properties, ignoring the three mortgages.


You are resentful of your friend’s success at climbing Mount Everest, but you dislike taking more time than you must away from your young children.


You’d quite like to be able to go out for dinner three nights a week like your best friend who lives at home with his parents. However, you do not because you want to be a homeowner and prioritise your mortgage payments. 


Or maybe you want to earn £100,000 per year like your friend who works a 50-hour week, whilst staying home with your children as a full-time parent.


Your Choices


be youIn addition to this explore your own choices. When the feeling of envy creeps in, first ask yourself whether you want to change paths. I believe this will lead you one of two ways


  1. Yes, you would like to be on your friend’s path, but something is holding you back
  2. No, you are happy with your choice.


If you find yourself at option two, recognise that you have complete control of your choices.


We all come to forks in the road of our life at various points. When we choose one path it prevents us from taking the other. By remembering that you are in control and you have a choice you can consider which choice brings you the greatest pleasure. Next time your friend achieves something or gets something that creates anxious comparison thoughts in your mind, remind yourself that you are in control of your life. You choose your path and if you want what they have you can change direction and do whatever you need to do to get the same.


If you recognise that you have chosen a different path you can begin to explore whether the path you have chosen brings you the greatest joy. Reclaiming the control over your own choices is powerful and can enable you to celebrate with friends and feel joyful that their path brings as much happiness to them as your path does to you.


If you find yourself at option one due to an external force seek the support of a qualified therapist to help you work through this problem. If you are being held back by something within yourself continue to read.




The Fixed Mindset


fixed mindset

A fixed mindset will land you at option one.


Carol Dweck said


“In one world, effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort. In the other world, effort is what makes you smart or talented.”


A fixed mindset holds you back. If you have a fixed mindset around something in your life you believe that you have limited potential. You cannot see any point in trying to improve or grow because you cannot surpass the limit you believe to be there. The reality is your potential is unlimited. With strategies, hard work and determination, you can do anything you want to do. Known as a growth mindset, the success of others is irrelevant because you know that you can do or have whatever you choose.


Cultivating a Growth Mindset


Here are some beginner tips to cultivate a growth mindset.


  1. hard workRecognise that effort and hard work come before talent and genius.

When we get only the merest glimpse into the life of others it is easy to use the phrase ‘naturally talented’ or ‘lucky’. Recently I was listening to Meghan Trainor in interview. It was fascinating to hear that from the age of 7 years she would spend hours shut away in her room writing songs. By the age of twenty-one, and noticed around the World, she had already dedicated fourteen years of her life to song writing.


  1. Focus on the process more than the result.

    growth mindset anxiety

When we focus only on the result it can be easy to try to get there quickly in the shortest way possible. Viewing things with a growth mindset involves seeing challenges as opportunities for growth. Welcome problems with open arms and enjoy the process of navigating around or through them, learning as you go, without trying to push them aside to get to the result. As growth becomes the priority you will embrace the journey and enjoy your experience rather than dwelling on the achievements and results of other people. When you focus on your journey you will have less need for external approval.




  1. ask for help

    Recognise your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses

Those with a growth mindset work alongside others and seek support regularly. When you recognise a weakness and ask for help you will learn strategies that you can take forward with you into future experiences. Surrounding yourself with a wide network means that when one something works for someone else but not you, you can look in a different direction to find what does work for you. In addition to this you will learn from the mistakes of others.


  1. Become aware of the brain’s ability to change in relation to its use (neuroplasticity).

The more you train your brain the stronger it will become. As with the muscles of the body your brain should be “trained”. Use determination and short term goals to believe the phrase “not yet”. You have not become a master yet. Always give yourself room for growth. Accept criticism as an opportunity to change something for the better and view room for improvement as exactly that, an opportunity to develop. Use regular reflection to note what you have learnt in each moment.



Finally – take risks! Very rarely is anything handed to us on a plate. Taking risks can help you to feel safe with uncertainty as you practise negotiating challenges and setbacks.




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