How You Measure Up

You often compare yourself to others. We all do. You look at the way people look and sound and move, and you check how you measure up. When you stop at an intersection in your car, you watch people walk across the street and you pass judgment on the person’s hairstyle, the way they dress, and so on, and you don’t even try to do this. It is completely automatic.

You may not be able to stop yourself from doing it. But you can change the way you do it.

When you compare yourself to people, you look to see how they’re different from you. And when you look at another and note your differences, it makes you feel superior if the comparison turns out in your favor and inferior if it turns out in their favor. When you feel superior, your feelings are communicated subtly through the way your body moves and through your voice tone, and this can make the other person feel inferior. All this mental nonsense creates a general feeling of alienation — it affects your attitude and your relationships.

But there’s another option. Instead of looking for differences, you can look for similarities.

Look and listen to people and notice how they are like you. Our feelings of friendliness toward people are affected by how alike we feel. When you know someone is from your home town or went to your college or is the same religion, you automatically feel more kinship with them. When you look for similarities you increase your feelings of compassion and affection toward that person. Where you once felt bad about yourself from an unfavorable comparison or made the other person feel bad because you found him to be inferior, there will now be good feelings. Try it the next time you catch yourself judging a person or when someone annoys you. Force yourself to notice your similarities. Recall times when you acted in similar ways. Studies show we tend to think others’ bad actions stem from personal motives, yet we tend to think our own bad actions are caused by circumstances beyond our control. This causes unnecessary anger between people, which is bad for health and doesn’t help relationships much. Actively looking for similarities is the antidote. It’s a new habit, so it will take some practice, but the process is enjoyable and the end result is too.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

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