Thursday, January 26, 2017

How Comparison Can Kill A Friendship

Real talk:  sometimes friendship can be hard.  Even the best of Besties go through difficult seasons.  Part of self care is fostering healthy relationships and doing what we can to cultivate deep, secure attachments with friends and family alike.  

Today I want to discuss how comparison can be particularly toxic to friendships (and just about any relationship).  Whether your friend is the one playing the comparison game, or you are the one doing the comparing, comparison is nobody's friend (you see what I did there?).

Why is comparison such a bad thing?  After all, it is perfectly natural that we compare ourselves to the people around us.  We go through each day making snap judgments about our world, whether or not we wish to.  Our brains are always working at lightening speed, assessing everything we experience, and telling us how to best respond.  Mostly, our brain does this to keep us safe, which is obviously a good thing.  However, comparison and judgement can become a problem when we dwell on them, especially with regard to the people in our lives.  

First of all, comparison is usually rooted in insecurity.  If you find yourself consistently comparing yourself to your friends, ask yourself why.  What could you be feeling insecure about?  What, if anything about their words or behavior make you feel less than?  Recognizing the why behind the what of our thoughts and behavior is often half the battle.  Once we understand our thinking, we are much better equipped to change it.  

Perhaps you have always struggled with low self-esteem.  Maybe you learned that behavior because you grew up in a not-so-healthy environment.  The good news is, we can always change.  Talking with a therapist or a trusted friend can help immensely.  Journaling about your experiences can also help you gain more insight into your emotions.

If you try a few of these suggestions and still struggle with comparison in a particular relationship, it may be because the friend or person in question is behaving in a way that causes strain between you.  For example, you may have a friend who constantly says things like "I'm so glad we live in THIS neighborhood (not yours), because the people here are so much friendlier (than where you live)."  Or "I could NEVER bottle feed my baby (and you are currently bottle feeding)."  You can basically insert any statement that is a commentary on why what they are doing is better than what you are doing. 

If you can relate, you have a couple of choices.  You can keep going on like nothing is wrong and silently resent this friend (not my recommendation, but you gotta do you).  You can lash out angrily and tell them just where they can go (also not recommended).  Or you choose a healthier route.  You can try talking to your friend by gently saying something like this:  "I'm not sure if you're aware of it, but lately I've noticed you comparing yourself to me a lot.  Is there something you want to talk about?"  This brings the comparison right out into the light where it can no longer achieve its intended purpose:  making you feel insecure.  Just hear them out.  They really may not have been aware that they were acting that way.  Again, comparison is something that we all do so much it may be hard to recognize when we are doing it.  

If having that type of conversation scares the bejesus out of you (as it always does me), that's likely because you err on the side of people-pleasing (like me) and you don't have much practice with honestly but lovingly confronting people who hurt you.  If that is the case, I would encourage you to strongly consider having that conversation anyway.  If the person in question is really important to you, you owe it to them (and your friendship) to give them a chance to make things right.  And in my experience, difficult conversations are always a lot more difficult in our minds than they are in real life.  

There is always the chance that when you have an honest conversation, things still don't change.  That's when we need to talk about healthy boundaries.  And we will...but that's a post for another day.  In the meantime, I hope this encourages you to notice if and how comparison or judgment is affecting your friendships, as well as gives you some actions to take to make things healthier for everyone involved.

I'm so glad we can talk about hard things sometimes.  Besties do, you know.  Lots of love to you all today!



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