The Unfair, Unjust and Unbelievably Harsh Voice of Ludicrous Comparison!
Posted by: Sue Atkins
One of the most intriguing, unjust and unhelpful beliefs that a lot of parents have, is the belief that because someone is excellent at something or displays incredible levels of skill it means that you can never become as skilful as them, so there is no point in even trying.
This is a commonly held belief for a lot of people and it stops them from even attempting to learn a new skill which I’d like to help you dispel!
I remember speaking to a really great friend of mine at a dinner party around New Year’s Eve who has a real passion for music. After we’d caught up on both our news we naturally moved onto the subject of music and I asked him what his future plans were for developing his passion.
He replied by telling me how de-motivated he was and that he just couldn’t seem to get himself into the right frame of mind to take a course that would help him develop the necessary skills he needed to be able to mix and produce music worthy of listening to. When I asked him what was stopping him from feeling motivated his reply was fascinating.
He said, “Well it all started when I was listening to my favourite CD the other night and almost every piece was just incredible… it was just nearly perfect in every way…and I thought to myself…well, there is no way I can ever be as good as that or ever produce or create music like that so what’s the point in even trying!”
For some reason or another, usually down to what beliefs you were given about yourself from your parents, teachers or people you have looked up to when you were young, a lot of people have a tendency to look at someone who does something really well, compare themselves to them, and feel totally helpless and de-motivated and then consequently make no attempt to even start or have a go at learning or practising the new skill.
I’ve done this myself when I used to compare myself to Tony Robbins, a Peak Performance Coach I really admire and look up to, and I felt totally overwhelmed by his charisma, passion and coaching skills and his ability to make wonderful transformations and changes in people’s lives on such a large scale.
The reality of the situation, however, is that to hold on to this belief is completely and utterly ridiculous and came to me in a sudden flash on a fantastic course of Tony’s called Date With Destiny! Adopting this kind of attitude is a little bit like deciding to learn how to play the guitar and then saying to yourself, ‘oh what’s the point, I’m not as good as Jimmy Hendrix so there’s no point in even starting!”
In fact, when you really think about it, because someone has managed to become really good at something actually means that you are more likely to become good at that skill too – if you just apply yourself and have a go.
The secret is to learn from them and find out what they did to become as skilled as they have because your chances of learning that skill then become greatly increased and much, much easier!
A more helpful and positive approach to take is, rather than comparing yourself to someone who is excellent at what they do, compare yourself with yourself.
Now, this may seem like a strange concept at first but it is an extremely effective and stress free way to learn a new skill and is much more forgiving!
The key is to notice where you are at the moment in life and then, as you progress in various different areas, notice how much you are improving in comparison to how you were when you started. Look back at far you’ve come and pat yourself on the back.
My son Will summed it up perfectly while he was enjoying a round of golf together with his Dad and some friends. Mick had asked him if he thought he was a better golfer than the rest of his friends and he replied, “I have absolutely no idea . . . all I know is that I am roughly twice as good a golfer as I was this time last year! So I’m going in the right direction.”
By making this shift in attitude it enables you to focus your attention on your own personal development as opposed to trying to figure out whether or not you are better than someone else.
There is also a high probability that you will begin to feel a wonderfully pleasurable sense of growth and progression as you become more and more skilful.
It is, however, still important to have a model of excellence to look up to and aspire to as it keeps you moving forward.
While it’s not very helpful to constantly compare yourself to someone else who is excellent at a particular skill and beat yourself up about how you fall short, it is still very useful and constructive to identify a model of excellence and to copy it.
It gives you something to aim for, model and learn from. It also saves you lots of time making and learning from your own mistakes!
Rather than comparing yourself to others, why not view them as proof and a great example of how anyone can reach that level of skill and recognise that they are an invaluable resource of inspiration and motivation for you to learn from?
So whether it’s parenting skills or learning salsa dancing why not relax, have some fun, get curious and playful and say to yourself, “How do they do that?” and go off and practise!