I have enjoyed your articles on KSL. I think you have helped me to understand people much better, but I have a friend who is always competing with me. She thinks her kids are better than mine, she thinks her life and all the choices she makes are better than mine. How do I let go and not let this bother me, when she is always comparing her life versus mine, with her life always being "better"?
In these situations, the most important thing is to make sure you are seeing her behavior and the situation accurately. What I mean is, people tend to take this kind of behavior personally, when it’s really not about them.
Her need to compare is about her insecurities about herself. She is most likely scared she isn’t good enough. Almost all bad behavior can be traced back to this fear at some level. I believe almost everyone on the planet is battling this fear, on a daily basis.
This fear of not being enough creates all kinds of bad behavior in people, including showing off or bragging to make themselves feel more valuable. It causes selfishness because these people cannot see past their own fears enough to see the needs of others. Fear of not being enough keeps their focus on themselves.
This fear also makes us see other people as different from us. If others are different, this implies that they have to be either better than you or worse than you. No one wants to feel worse than anyone else, so some people subconsciously look for the bad in others to make themselves feel better.
Your friend is probably subconsciously looking for the bad in you (and the good in herself) to quiet her fear of not being enough. Casting others as the bad guy so she can feel like the good guy is a common subconscious way to deal with low self-esteem.
This fear also makes people think others have to lose for them to win. Fear makes people see the world from a scarcity perspective. In this place, you feel threatened when anything good happens to anyone else. You are subconsciously afraid that will leave less for you.
Now that you understand why your friend is behaving this way, you can choose a better response. Here are some options:
1. You could just ignore the behavior. It’s not about you anyway, and just because your friend sees herself as better than you doesn’t make it true. You have the same infinite absolute value no matter what she thinks or says, so her behavior and comments are really irrelevant. This would be a great option, though it’s not always easy to do. You have to commit to not caring what she says and love her as she is (an imperfect, struggling, scared, student in the classroom of life, just like you.)
2. Love and validate her. I believe that all bad behavior is about a person's fear about himself, which means that all bad behavior is a request for love or validation. Your friend is behaving this way because she isn’t sure she’s good enough, so you could try giving her tons of validation and constantly tell her how amazing she is and how much you look up to her.
(I realize you probably aren’t going to want to do this, because we don’t like to reward selfish behavior with validation, but it can make a difference.)
After a while, your friend might feel so safe and loved around you that she no longer needs to compare and compete. It can feel powerful and amazing to give love to people who don’t deserve it in that moment.
3. Have a talk with her about it. This has to be done very carefully, because people who are afraid they aren’t good enough can get offended and defensive very easily. You would have to give your friend tons of validation and reassurance first about how much you love her. Then, you would have to ask her if there is anything you could do to be a better friend and show up in support of her better. You would have to be open to making changes to be a better friend yourself (because you can’t ask her to do it if you aren’t willing to).
Then, you could ask her if she would be open to making a small change for you, which would really strengthen your friendship. If she says yes, you will tell her that you are really sensitive to feeling that you aren’t good enough (which is true) and you wondered if, moving forward, she would be willing to be careful about not comparing the two of you on any level.
You both need to stay centered in the truth that everyone is on their own unique journey (signed up for totally different classes in the classroom of life) and it’s just not healthy to compare. Notice that you are focusing on the future behavior you want to see, not her past bad behavior which she can’t change anyway. If you waste time telling her about her past bad behavior, she will only get defensive.
Consider these three options and pick the one that feels right to you. You are the one entitled to know what your perfect lesson in this situation is. It could be about being mature enough to ignore this fear-motivated behavior. It could be about learning to show love to difficult people. Or, it could be about learning how to handle tough conversations in a loving way.
You will know what to do.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of ldslifecoaching.com and claritypointcoaching.com. She is a sought after life coach and popular speaker who specializes in repairing and building self-esteem.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.