One of the most difficult challenges men face is their tendency to compare themselves to other men. Although this instinct can spur on healthy competition and creativity, for a lot of men it has the undesirable effect of killing their self-esteem.
It leads to envy, feelings of inadequacy, a sense of not being ‘good enough,’ and possibly even resentment towards other men that we perceive as having more success than us.
I’m no stranger to this. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a rock star. No seriously, before I cut my hair and got ‘a real job,’ I was the front man of a hard rock band. If you don’t believe me, check out this pic from my glory days:
I enjoyed performing, but the reason I got into music was that I always felt completely useless when it came to girls. Heavy metal made me feel confident. I wanted to be a star, the kind of guy that girls adored, and I devoted a large amount of time to getting better at being a performer.
Then one day a new bass player joined the band. He was a talented musician and he fit in with the musical vibe. But when we started doing shows, I noticed that he always got all the attention from the girls in the audience. After shows, I would overhear them talking about talented and good-looking he was. I was the front man, I was supposed to be the star, but none of the girls ever paid that kind of attention to me.
But the worst part of it was that I had started to associate so much negativity to music over the years that followed that I eventually stopped playing music altogether. I gave up.
I’ve found new things in my life now that I enjoy more, but the point I’m trying to make is that the envy, negativity and resentment that came from comparing myself to someone else, caused me to project that negativity onto the things (and the people) I loved.
The Cost of Comparing Yourself to Other Men.
Comparing yourself to other men is basically a way of ensuring you always set yourself up to fall short of your expectations. Why?
Because when you compare yourself to other men, not only are you minimizing yourself in relation to them, but you’re measuring your perceived weaknesses against someone else’s strengths. When you do this, you’re guaranteed to feel like you don’t measure up.
So right away you’re setting yourself up to kill your confidence. But there are other costs of minimizing yourself in relation to other men. People who constantly put themselves down in relation to others may just simply decide to Opt-Out of adult responsibility.
Cost number 1: The Rise of the Man-Child.
We’re seeing a rise of the ‘Man-child,’ or guys who give up on any sense of ambition and opt instead to spend their time playing computer games and collecting literal toys.
There’s not anything particularly wrong with either of these two things, what’s important here are the reasons why some men seem to be stuck in these adolescent patterns. I believe it has to do with needing relief from the burden of adult responsibility, something that we, as men should be able to embrace with pride.
But instead, we see this phenomenon of grown-a** men retreating into simpler times when they could play with their toys and not be weighed down by the realities of life as an adult.
Again, there’s nothing particularly wrong with computer games, I play computer games occasionally myself, but opting-out completely of adult responsibility and staying stuck in a teenage mindset is limiting yourself and what you can achieve.
Cost number 2: The Wussification of Men.
The subconscious is your friend, it wants to help you and keep you safe. But the strategies it uses can sometimes be counter-productive. When you start comparing yourself to other men, your sense-of-self feels threatened. This triggers your subconscious to defend you from the perceived threat, and it can do this in a number of ways. One of the most common strategies it uses is avoidance.
This can manifest itself by pacifying your ambition and enthusiasm, essentially turning you into a “wuss.” After all, there’s no risk of feeling threatened if you’re never in a threatening situation in the first place, right?
So, many men live their lives suppressing or diminishing their goals and ambition so that they never face the challenges that come up in pursuit of their goals. The result? A man without drive, enthusiasm and any sense of direction in life.
Cost number 3: Anger, Resentment, and blame.
Another cost of comparing yourself to other men is that it can lead to anger, resentment, and blame. This is basically a way of deflecting your own sense of inadequacies and projecting them onto other people. When you compare yourself to someone else, it’s easy to think that the other person is the cause of your inadequacy.
Everyone is different, and so naturally you’re going to come across a lot of people with varying traits, skills, and talents. Some of the people you meet in life are going to excel in certain things you wish that you were better at, but how you interpret those encounters is important.
You can choose to become bitter and envious, secretly (or even overtly) hating that person. Or you can choose to be inspired and motivated, learning from that person and applying their lessons and example in your own life. You may never be as good as that person at that skill, and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to kill your confidence or your enjoyment of it.
If you’re comparing yourself to other men and judging yourself as inferior, ask yourself why? Why do I feel that way about myself? What’s behind this feeling of inadequacy? Where did this sense of not being good enough come from? And how can I be inspired by other people’s talents, rather than judging myself negatively by comparison?
How to Interrupt the Pattern of Negativity.
This leads to my next point. In order to be able to interrupt the pattern of negativity, we have to be able to connect with the reasons behind it.
Remember how I said that your subconscious is your friend? It’s trying to protect you, so you need to be able to connect with the reasons behind why it’s doing what it’s doing. This can be tricky to navigate on your own without guidance. Like a fish unable to see the water it’s swimming in, you might be unable to see what’s right in front of your eyes because it’s become such a normal part of your life.
It’s going to be a lot faster and easier if you have someone to help you navigate those waters, so if you’d like to know more about how I help guys do that. However, if you don’t mind taking your time, here’s some general tips that may help, although it all depends on you as an individual.
1. Start Journaling.
A lot of successful people do some kind of journaling. They know that in order to overcome many of the mental and emotional challenges holding them back, they have to work through those issues. So why is journaling effective at doing this? It’s because keeping a journal connects you to yourself and opens up a conduit to your subconscious.
One way I find effective to work on myself is to use a kind of question-and-answer format. I’ll write myself a question, and then in the next paragraph, try to allow my subconscious to answer that question through free-flow writing. There’s an excellent book I read many years ago on this kind of free-flow writing, it’s called ‘Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight and Content,’ by Mark Levy. You should read this if you get the chance.
So an example of this kind of question-and-answer format I might use in this context, could be as follows:
So I’m wondering why I keep constantly comparing myself to other guys. It’s something that I feel is really holding me back, I’d like to ask the part of me that keeps comparing myself to other people; what’s the reason behind it?
I’m not sure. I just can’t stand to feel like I’m falling behind all the time.
What do you mean by falling behind?
Isn’t it obvious? Everybody around me is progressing in their careers and starting to earn a lot more money than I am. I just feel like I’m falling behind.
What’s important to you about not wanting to fall behind?
That’s a good question. I guess I never really thought about it before.
Would you be open to exploring that a little bit now?
Sure, where would you like to start?
What I’m doing here is building rapport with the part of myself that’s comparing my results to those of other people. That part of me doesn’t really understand the reasons why it’s doing what it’s doing, and it may take a while to uncover that, but simply opening up a dialogue with myself has started a process of unraveling that may lead to new self-awareness the more I learn about myself.
2. Shake Things Up a Little Bit.
This is more of a short-term fix and won’t resolve the underlying reasons why you’re comparing yourself to others, but it may interrupt the pattern of negativity long enough to make lasting change.
Try shaking things up a bit in your life. Try something new, or do the same things a different way. For instance, if you normally allow 30 minutes in the morning to go for a run, ride a bike instead. If the first thing you do in the morning is read through Facebook, read through a book instead.
If there’s a new hobby you’ve been wanting to try, do it or research about how to get started. I want to learn how to surf, so I’m watching beginner videos on YouTube on how to start.
Anything you can do to inject some variety into your life and into your mind will get your creativity flowing and interrupt whatever negative pattern that’s got a hold on you. As I said, this won’t address the real problem, but it may be what you need to get you to a place where you can deal with your issues, or at least put the focus back on your own enjoyment of life rather than focusing on other people’s successes.
3. Flip the Script on Your Internal Narrative.
So you think someone else is better than you at something? Maybe they are. Be okay with that. Rather than saying to yourself;
Tom has it so good. He has everything. All the girls like him and he makes so much money, I’m such a loser.
Try to think about it this way instead;
Tom seems really good at getting dates, maybe I could ask him for advice on what he’s been doing. He earns so much more money than I do as well, he’s obviously very talented in his field. He’s better than me at this particular skill, but that’s okay because I know I have my own talents as well. Maybe he could give me some career advice so that I can better apply my talents.
You see what I did there? I didn’t use any mental gymnastics to delude myself or ignore reality. Tom probably really is a lot better at certain things than I am, the difference is how I talk to myself about that situation, and how I choose to respond to my observations.
Admittedly this can be a challenging thing to put into practice if you’ve been locked in a certain way of thinking for a while.
The important thing is that you start to change the way you look at things. Because ultimately, comparing your talents to other men isn’t a bad thing, it’s when you judge yourself as inadequate or ‘not good enough’ that you kill your confidence.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.
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