Making critical comparisons

Are you the richest, best-looking, or smartest person in the world? Neither are we. There's always someone who has more of something than you do. Even if you're the best at something, that doesn't mean you're the best at everything. People have strengths and weaknesses, and if you do think you're the best at everything, you have a problem that's quite different from anxiety or depression.

Everyone engages in comparing themselves to others sometimes. But anxious and depressed folks tend to rate themselves more negatively and place more value on those comparisons.

To identify your negative personal comparisons, put a check mark next to each item in Worksheet 5-10 that you sometimes examine in yourself and then compare to others.

Worksheet 5-10 The Critical Comparison Quiz

□ Finances or wealth

□ Looks and appearance

□ Intelligence

□ Popularity

Essentially, the less comparing you do, the better off you are. However, the seduction of comparisons lies in the fact that they contain a kernel of truth. The reality is that there's always someone richer, younger, or higher on the ladder than you. Comparisons may be unavoidable, but they become problematic when you conclude that you're not good enough because you're not the top or the best.

What's the alternative to making critical comparisons that scramble the way you see yourself? Like should alternative statements (see "Shoulding on yourself"), comparison alternatives are all about looking at an issue from a different, less harsh perspective. Before creating your own alternative statements, take a look at Worksheet 5-11 for an example.

Worksheet 5-11

Scott's Comparison Alternative Exercise

Critical Comparison

Comparison Alternative

My friend Joe has done a lot better than I have in his career:

Well, he has. But I've done fine. I spend a lot of time with my family, and that's my real priority.

When we went to that Super Bowl party, I was really jealous of that 60" plasma TV Our TV is pitiful in comparison.

There was nothing wrong with my TV before that party. I don't even watch that much TV.

I went to the gym and noticed that everyone was more fit than I am.

Of course, most of the really unfit people don't even go to the gym. I'm in better shape than I was a month ago; that's progress, and that's what matters.

I read an article on retirement and got anxious when I realized that I don't have as much put away as a lot of people do.

Having kids was more expensive than I thought it would be, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Once Trevor's college is paid for, we'll prioritize saving.

Review the items you checked on your Critical Comparison Quiz (see Worksheet 5-10) and listen to your self-dialogue. Then fill out the Comparison Alternative Exercise in Worksheet 5-12 by following these instructions:

1. Tune into what you're telling yourself when you feel upset, and listen for any time that you critically compare yourself to others.

2. List those statements in the left-hand column.

3. Come up with alternative perspectives and record them in the right-hand column.

Because only one person in the world is at the top on any given issue or activity, try to accept that you'll be average, normal, or even occasionally less than average at many things. Comparing yourself to the very top only leaves you disappointed, so appreciate your own strengths, weaknesses, and chosen priorities.

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