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The Art of Not Looking Sideways: How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Happiness | Lifestyle

I was never the sportiest of children. I lost every race that I can remember and didn’t even make it as far as the swimming pool when I had been nominated to enter a gala one year. I’d spent the entire time in the queue vomiting from my nerves and was quickly labelled a health and safety risk to the water. Not such great memories of sport in my life.

I do, however, have one memory that has remained with me my entire life. I was around nine or ten years old when I was called into a relay team for an inter-school competition. I don’t recall the race being particularly important to me personally, however, I do remember the valuable piece of advice that the coach gave us—a piece of wisdom that resonates with me more now, as I head towards thirty and into motherhood for the first time, than it did to a nine-year-old non-sporty, non-competitive race loser.

"Don’t look sideways. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to look over at the competition—you just keep going forward. Keep looking ahead. If you look anywhere other than ahead, you’ll trip."

I can’t remember the outcome of that race, but I remember running prouder than ever before, powered by these potent words of encouragement. That’s what I love about language; we can find such meaning in the simplest of phrases. I believe this teacher’s advice offers a whole plethora of wisdom for us all to absorb.

Stop Comparing Your Day-to-Day to Others' Highlight Reels

In a world full of fierce competition in the work place, and more and more so in our personal lives as we play them out on the virtual platforms of Facebook and Instagram. It couldn’t be more apt. In my early twenties I would look at pictures of friends travelling and feel sad that I was holding down full time work and a mortgage.

I envied almost everyone and thought I would never travel. I did actually, and I found work doing what I love too! If this resonates with you in some way, then allow me to reiterate the words of my teacher by calling upon the beautiful words of Baz Lurhman: "sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and in the end it is only with yourself…your choices are half chance, and so are everybody else's."

Please do not think that life is a linear time line with time scales on when and how you should forge the path of your dreams. I have fallen prey to this way of thinking and it only limits your potential, because you have to do things your own way whoever you are. The truth is that your potential is infinite, but you have to believe it.

Do not try to picture how you will make your outcome, just keep working diligently, and experiment with the opportunities that life throws your way. Stay open minded to those even if they seem far out to you at first, and visualize your ultimate goal A LOT.

I am a big believer that the universe will provide, even things that you did not expect to happen can turn out to be exactly what you needed all along, so don’t look sideways at your colleagues or your peers. They are living their destiny, and you must concentrate on living yours.

Trying to "Keep Up" in the Era of Social Media

Social time used to be a place to chill with friends and share your woes, but in this fast paced, globalized world of crazy speed we are feeling more inclined to ‘keep up’ socially. Burying our real emotions to try and represent the beautiful life we think we’re supposed to be leading, and holding back on the crap that you could really do with venting to a friendly ear.

I think social media plays a big part in this. It has created a platform for us to play out our own reality TV show, editing out any negatives, just posting the bits that are entertaining. Instead of living in real time, we live in the realm of the holiday, the gig we went to that one night of the week that sat among six other monotonous ones.

The night out we had for the first time in two months, or the one special meal spent with a loved one because the other days were too busy to get around to it. We use these images to create the representation of life as we wish it could be more often. I’m almost certain that most of us have been guilty of this at some point in our social media past. The saddest part is that it is seeping into our perception of reality and marring our vision of what life should be.

Accept That Life Can Be Monotonous and That's Okay

Life is monotonous at times, the real challenge is learning how to be present with this, and learning how to enjoy and be grateful for the down times as well as the up. Don’t get sucked into social media competitions with your hottest and most successful Facebook friend. Just enjoy your life for what it is and all that it has provided you with so far.

If you relate to this more than you’d like, and find yourself wishing your own life away as you admire the representation of someone else’, then a great thing to start as habit is a mindfulness practice. There are plenty or apps and books to guide you; mindfulness teaches you how to be present rather than always projecting yourself to somewhere else in time which adds to stress and anxiety. Basically learning the art of ‘not looking sideways’ just like my teacher said.

Live your life for you, and no one else, every day, enjoy the mysteries of the future and the quieter less exciting times, because change is always inevitable.

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