Q&A FRIDAY: EPISODE 04

10 Empowering Tips on How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Chances are, you have at least one sibling you compare yourself to. People who don’t have siblings compare themselves to their friends, colleagues or relatives.

Almost everyone is playing the comparison game. Adults, young adults, small kids and of course- teenagers! 

And this has been going on since the beginning of times- literally! (Recall the story of Habeel and Qabeel.)

I have seen mature adults in their 40s (with 3+ kids) still comparing themselves to their siblings. 

So I feel like this is a topic definitely worth discussing. What does Islam say about comparisons? How  In this episode, I share with you some of the best ways to stop comparing yourself to others (especially your siblings). 

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READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF Q&A FRIDAY: EPISODE 04

Assalamualaikum, Aimen here! You’re listening to the fourth episode of Q&A FRIDAY, where I answer self-development questions from other growth-oriented Muslims, just like you.

To all of you listening, I really appreciate you. JazakAllahu Khayran for taking out the time. Some of you already know that I haven’t posted an episode in quite some time, and I’ve been getting emails from my MYP friends asking me to upload more episodes… And honestly, it’s not like I don’t want to post more often, I really do. Because I’ve realized one thing about myself- I love talking. I have been the kid in the class who was always kicked out because I talked too much and it’s not a good thing generally, but it does help when it comes to talking for my podcast listeners.

But I am working full-time on building an online program so I figured the podcast can wait until I’m done with that. Which is why I haven’t posted an episode in quite some time.

But thank you for all those of you who’ve reached out to me and told me that you love the podcast. I really appreciate you saying that.

So, anywho, I have a great question from someone who didn’t want me to mention her name- and just gave a letter A… and the question goes like this:

 “I am 19 years old. I am chubby, [the] youngest sister and not organized.  

I have a sister who is HAFIZE UL QURAN, [she is a] doctor, [she’s] smart, brave and strong.  She was topper in high school and college..  

So the main issue is that I always compare myself to her… Because I always wanted to be like her… Best student, better Muslim and all the good habits she has…  I still sometimes copy her but in all this comparison…  I end up losing my own style…. 
Its not that my parents compare me to her…. But everybody in the society respects her and am happy for her… But yes still I wish I was her.. 

Can you please guide me how can I stop comparing myself to others… More specifically my sister…? 
That would help me a lot… 

Lots of prayers for you, A.”

Now, before I dive deep into this topic of discussion, I just wanna say that I have a certain way that I want to go about for this Q and A Friday Podcast. And that is I take questions from you guys who so willingly submit amazing questions to me, for which I am thankful, and I answer these questions in a general tone.

Meaning, I want to talk about a certain topic in detail in a way that can help many Muslims altogether. So, if I say things or talk about certain areas of the topic that do not apply to the personal situation of the questioner, I implore you to be okay with that and not take everything I say personally.

Rather, take pieces of information that apply to you and can you help you in some way, and chuck the rest. (Because different tips apply to different people and this podcast is a means of conversing about day-to-day issues of us Muslims in a non-specific way.)

Otherwise, nobody, besides the person asking the question, wants to listen to material that is very very specific to one individual, right? And it also doesn’t make sense to do a public podcast about a very very individual problem, right? Because for that, we have the email system. 

With that said, now let’s talk about comparisons among siblings. I believe it’s something to dig into because I’ve seen people in their 40s (literally 40s) talking about how they compare themselves to their siblings.

So it’s definitely not something to brush off easily and think that it only happens among kids or teens. Absolutely not. I come from a full family and grew up with many siblings, Alhamdulilah. Something that I love. But at the same time, I’ve been in the comparison game in my teens so I feel like I understand where this Q is coming from. If anything, I’ve learned a thing or two about dealing with constant comparisons between siblings. 

So when we talk about comparisons, one thing is for certain- there’s an infinite number of categories and people we can compare ourselves to. ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES. The common categories would be looks, wealth, status, education and specifically for Muslims- Deen (for e.g. how ‘practicing’ the other person is as compared to us.)

And although people compare themselves to their friends or colleagues too, by far the biggest comparisons are made between siblings. Because according to people, they are supposed to be IDENTICAL due to the common genetics… right?? WRONG!

Just like any 2 random persons aren’t identical, siblings are two different human beings that inherit a completely different set of traits and carry their own unique beliefs. So to make comparisons between siblings is not only phenotypically wrong, it’s stupid at the genotype level too. Ok, that was a very ‘Medical’ joke, I promise not to make anymore. 😛

Overall, making comparisons between two people gives inaccurate and disproportional results because of the lack of wholesome statistics.

We don’t have accurate metrics to study before we can compare. So if you’re praising someone to the extreme and degrading yourself to another extreme, then your comparison is faulty because you didn’t have accurate statistics to begin with. That’s just one way of looking at comparisons. I call it the phenomenon of Relativity. Everything is relative. 

The only entity worthy of absolute praise is Allah S.W.T. Nobody else. And then? The Prophet S.A.W. The best creation of Allah S.W.T.

So this one concept not only humbles the arrogant, it elevates the depressed person who’s fallen victim to comparisons.

We can find great comfort in reminding ourselves that Allah S.W.T deserves the most praise and anyone who has been blessed with something amazing, has in fact, nothing he has on his own- it’s only a blessing of Allah S.W.T. and you should look at it as a blessing, praise it- say MashaAllah and move on.

No need to drown in the wish pond, you have been given blessings too- if you think you haven’t, you’re not looking carefully enough. They may not be the same as you see in somebody else, but they are there. 

So when we get deep in the comparison game, it only becomes a lose-lose situation for us. You either become the victim of low self-esteem or you become the victim of your ego.

Because the truth is- making comparisons between people is only a game of ego. You get nothing out of comparisons but you lose plenty.

Because on the one end of the esteem spectrum, there’s low self-esteem along with resentment towards the other person and depression.

On the other end of the esteem spectrum, there’s arrogance, belittling and making fun of others. Do you see that there’s no positive influence of comparisons? If you think they’ll motivate you to do better- I don’t think that’s true. I’ve yet to see someone who compares themselves to their siblings and try to be better like them without feeling any resentment or low self-esteem. I don’t know. I’m just saying. There are other amazing ways to motivate yourself which I’ll talk about, so don’t get your feet in the comparison stuff. 

Ok, so now let’s move on to the main part of the podcast…

10  TIPS ON HOW TO STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS

  1. We don’t have to try so hard to be unique- as cliché as this sounds… we already are unique.

 None of us are clones.

If Allah wanted to create clones, He would have. He would have created all of us exactly alike so there would be no differences. But He created humans, each different and unique. So the only difference is in our thought process. If you don’t recognize and appreciate your own quirkiness, uniqueness and style, then nobody will.

You say you end up losing your own style by copying her-

First, identify your style-know how you are, the things that you like doing and how you want to be.

only when we’re unaware and unconscious of our own uniqueness, we tend to copy others- people who are fully aware of the qualities and skills that make them unique aren’t easily swayed to copy others in EVERYTHING trivial they do.

So go ahead and design your portfolio. Ask yourself: what makes you unique? What are you good at, what do you like doing, etc. Write it all down.

  1. Sometimes, it’s a good thing if one of your siblings is better in some aspects- make it a pivot for growth, not a cause of resentment.

That way you’re being a bigger person than someone who’s jealous and aggressive- that itself is a praise worthy trait that you should be proud of.
And it’s okay to copy the good qualities of others. Doesn’t mean you end up copying everything like a monkey, because that’s unhealthy. But we were told to copy our Prophet S.A.W.

So copy the righteous people. If your sibling is pious, copy them in their good habits but not in everything, from the shoes they wear to the style of hijab she wears to the way she laughs. Copy them in righteousness. Because that humbles you. You realize that you’re not the best human in the world- you are faulty- you have room for growth.

  1. Highlight more of the things you are good at.

Now don’t say ‘I AM NOT GOOD AT ANYTHING.’ Whenever  I say this to my youngest sister (who’s a teenager btw), she always replies with: ‘But I am not good at anything.’

UGH, I hear this all the time. It’s frustrating because people are so lazy that they are not willing to explore what hidden talents/ skills they have and they are so quick to put negative labels on themselves.

And say you find no talent hidden inside you, then pick something you want to learn, GO put in some effort and become GOOD at that. No angel is going to come, open his wings and shower you with talents one strange evening so you just walk on a magic carpet of talents.

  1. When do you compare? And on what aspects of life? Figure that out and improve those aspects by shifting the focus on what “you can do” instead of what “she does”.  

We get so focused on what the people we admire are doing that we forget to bring the flashlight on our own footsteps and see what we have done to try and reach that level of admiration.

Start focusing on what you CAN DO to get where you want instead of looking at what the person is doing or has already done.

I am going really quickly over these tips because there are 10 of them and I don’t want this episode to be an hour-long episode.

5. Accept that you are not good at somethings- and that’s okay, you don’t have to be amazing at everything.

This not only humbles you down and makes you more grateful Muslim, it also relieves you of the burden of expectations you’ve put on yourself.

So for e.g. if you are not a good cook and you have tried to be but haven’t succeeded, don’t beat yourself up. You don’t have to be amazing at everything you do. Sometimes, we give something our best but we still fall short of our own expectations and that’s OK.

Just bring your expectations down a little. That doesn’t mean you stop trying, it only means you relieve yourself of the unnecessary burden that you’re carrying around.

6. Appreciate and compliment more (both yourself and your siblings).

Even if it makes you uncomfortable to compliment the person who you compare yourself to- do it. Praise your siblings behind their back to your parents and relatives even if you don’t feel like it because it makes you feel inadequate. Praise yourself in your head or in positive self-talk sessions.

Complimenting others humbles us and also makes us feel good about ourselves because it removes the dark seeds of jealousy Shaytan can sometimes place in our hearts. But of course, you don’t have to be fake and superficial and go overboard with your compliments. Don’t start showering others with compliments on their face all the time- give very selective but genuine compliments so people take it to heart.

7. Compete and compare yourself to yourself from yesterday- make yourself the pivot of growth

The entire concept of accountability in Islam is based on checking in with yourself… nowhere does self-accountability imply comparing yourself to others and measuring progress.

Allah S.W.T says in the Quran: “O you who believe! Fear Allah, and let every soul consider what it has forwarded for the morrow (The Day of Judgement), and fear Allah. Allah is aware of what you do).” Surah: 59, Verse: 18.]

Every night, before going to bed, think about what you’ve done today- the good and the bad. What can you do better tomorrow? What should you continue doing? Self-comparison is the best way to measure your own growth (without feeling low about yourself… without feeling jealousy or resentment towards others.)

8. Build your own support network

We can only go so far by ourselves. Let’s not deny the impact a like-minded group of Muslims can have on our growth.

Your support network can include people around you physically and your virtual buddies too- basically people who support you when you’re trying to do GOOD and improve yourself. Support can be given in any form- emotional, financial, environmental etc.

This goes without saying that your support system does not include people who are jealous of you and people who are negative and spread toxicity. Find the positive, vibrant  and uplifting people in your life and make them a part of your support system. These are the people who uplift you and remind you of your good qualities when you’re feeling down.

So yeah… it’s very important to build your support system. And this particular tip is relevant to so many self-related struggles. It can help you overcome depression and anxiety as well. So having a like-minded group of Muslims can really help in many self-related struggles but it’s hard to find positive and uplifting Muslims who are also willing to be a part of your support system.  

9. Become your own self-help coach

This is my favorite one of all and I like to include it as an important tip for all self-related struggles.

So just like we listen to podcasts, read articles and listen to these self-help coaches, how about you become your own self-help coach? Because only you are with yourself all the time besides Allah S.W.T.  It’s so necessary to become our own self-help coach because we don’t always have the supportive environment we need, especially in this century of Fitnah. 

Sometimes you’re alone and you have to figure things out on your own, that’s when your inner self-help coach wakes up and can help you in those sticky situations. 

Say uplifting stuff to yourself, write motivational quotes when you’re feeling down because of comparisons… go back to your talents and skills that Allah S.W.T has blessed you with when you’re feeling inadequate… give yourself pep-talks before facing toxic people who compare you all the time with others. Which brings me to the final tip I have for you…

10. Communicate with others openly (about making comparisons)

Tell it straight to your parents, siblings, cousins and aunties to stop comparing you with your siblings: you are your own person, unique in my own qualities and you love the way Allah S.W.T has made you. At first, they will be taken back because they probably don’t even realize that they’re making comparisons out of habit. So tell them politely that it’s not a good thing to compare people.

Say this: if you want to tell me to improve something about myself, then I would love to take your advice but you don’t have to compare me to someone else to get me to improve myself. I will try to get better even if you just tell me the things I need to work on directly.

Just say that. It’s not rude. It’s clear. It’s the perfect language you can use to communicate with the person who’s always comparing you to others.

That can have an effect on you, let’s not deny that. When people say things  like ‘you are not good at this, she’s great at it.’… it can have a toll on Your self-esteem. It can trigger a very negative emotional response within you.  

Be clear in your communication and people won’t mind. At least the ones that matter won’t mind. At least not for long. But if we don’t tell people how we feel about a certain thing they’re doing that really really bothers us, then we‘re just opening doors for resentment, anger and hatred in our hearts which is honestly much worse than sharing your thoughts with others.

One last reminder I want to give you before I end this podcast is this: The final judgment only lies with Allah.

More, most. Best among all.

Who decides who is more praise-worthy? Who decides how much to reward someone? Allah. Not me. Not you. Not your parents. And certainly not the aunties. Only Allah. Don’t even trust your own judgment. How does Allah S.W.T reward? What does He S.W.T see? Does He see our looks? Our wealth? Our education? How awesome our house is? How soon did we get married? How many great proposals did we have? None of that. 

Allah S.W.T sees our good deeds. And Allah S.W.T sees our intentions behind our good deeds.

So as humans, we have the ability to see with our eyes the good deeds we’re doing, that others are doing. But what we don’t have is the ability to look inside anyone’s heart- except our own- and scale the good deeds on the basis of their intentions. 

Good deeds are weighed, not counted. And weighing must take so many factors into consideration that only Allah S.W.T fully knows. I can only assume that our good deeds are weighed on the basis of how easy it is or how hard it is to do that- the difficulty level, besides of course the intentions.

So let’s start looking at ourselves and others without the petty, dysfunctional COMPARISON visual aids.

Everything is part of Allah’s plan for you and me- realize that everything that happens is bigger than you or me. If somebody got the job and you didn’t, that’s OK.

Allah’s plans are bigger than you and me. 

Work on yourself more than you’ve done in the past- become a better Muslim with a better connection with Allah and you’ll realize that none of the comparisons matter in the end- because Allah is not comparing you with anyone– He only wants you to improve and work with the unique abilities He’s given you. He doesn’t expect you to be a clone of someone else to become worthy of reward. 

In the ultimate scheme of events, what matters is how much you’ve grown- how far you’ve come- that growth itself is something unique to you and that no one can fully imitate or take that away from you. 

And let’s end it with that! 

I hope this lesson was useful. 

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SALAM! I’M AIMEN.

I help Young Muslims on their journey of Personal Development. I believe it’s always the right time to make ourselves better, what do you think?

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Now I’d Love to hear from you…

To add to the conversation, in the comments section below, let me know which one of the 10 tips are you going to follow in your personal life?

If there’s another tip you’d like to share with us that you’ve personally applied to stop comparing yourself with others, I’d  love to hear all about it! 🙂

I hope today’s Q&A was helpful. I pray Allah (S.W.T) helps us stop making comparisons with others and fully appreciate the blessings He S.W.T has given us, Ameen.

For the rest of you who’re listening, if you have a question you’d like for me to answer on the Q&A Friday podcast, just click the button on the top yellow bar that says “ASK ME YOUR QUESTION” & it’ll redirect you to the page where you can send me your Q.

JazakAllah for listening, reading and adding to the conversation. I really appreciate you!

I’ll talk to you in the next episode of Q&A Friday, Insha’Allah.

BarakAllahu Feek. Assalamualaikum warahmatullahe Wabarakatuhu.

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Founder & Author l Muslim Youth Programme
Aimen is a Medical Doctor who teaches self-development to young Muslims struggling with the fitnah of this century. Her aim is to educate and empower Muslims with practical advice on self-development, productivity, studies and health, with insights on Islamic psychology. Jumpstart your productivity and take action on your goals by signing up to her latest FREE productivity Bootcamp for Muslims.
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