Full text of bestselling author Rachel Smets’ talk: Stop comparing! Be the best YOU! at TEDxHarderwijk conference.
Notable quote from this talk:
‘Comparison is the thief of joy’
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Rachel Smets – Expat Coach, Bestselling Author
Well, imagine you’re sitting in a cafe downtown and you order your favorite coffee. And while you wait, you sit around and observe the people around you.
The waitress comes and brings your coffee. And after a bit of a small talk, you find out she’s the owner of that café. And she smiles and walks away and serves other people.
And you look at her and you sit back and you think, ‘Hmm, I wish I had that too. I wish I had my own business. I wish I was that happy. I wish I had that much freedom. I wish. I wish…’
Well, that waitress, many years ago, was me. People told me how lucky I was to have my own business, to be that happy and to have that much freedom.
Lucky? Cleaning up every night; working seven days a week; working weekends, when everyone else was partying and relaxing… days I had to smile on the outside and feel like shit on the inside.
Lucky? So it seemed.
But that’s when I learned, ‘Comparing yourself makes no sense.’ Those people were comparing themselves to my ‘seemingly’ perfect life, resulting in feeling bad and putting themselves down. And they didn’t even know half the truth.
Those years taught me how comparing ourselves to others can make us feel miserable. But I learned how to turn it around and feel good instead.
So that’s what I’m here to share with you today. Most comparison is not fair. We often forget that achieving goals takes hard work. Let’s say you want to become really fit or healthy; takes a lot of workouts and specific lifestyle.
I have news for you. David Beckham, he wasn’t born this way; neither was Beyoncé. No. they have to put in the effort too; watching their diet, spending countless hours at the gym. Like running my café, it has nice moments, yeah.
But I remember vividly, the smell of beer. Every morning, I had to clean up the sticky tables and broken glasses.
Take famous authors for example. Before they even become famous, they spent years writing and publishing books. I write books too. And when my friends are going out and telling me, ‘Oh, come with us. Relax Rachel.’ I’m at home, typing, brainstorming, creating.
The reality is, a book does not write itself.
So, if you want all the positive and the fame, you should also want to hard work that goes with it, taking to account the good and the bad. Otherwise, comparing is not fair.
‘But he has the best career and I’m an idiot. She has an amazing body but I’m so weak.’
What are we doing here? We compare the outside with our inside. I mean, we compare others’ outside appearances, money, clothes, with our inside characteristics. Oh well, you won’t get bored. You will always find someone who has something you wish you had.
As a trainer, I see a lot of people compare themselves to others. I see it all the time… all the time.
So, when I ask them, “Okay, so tell me about that person you compared yourself to.” That person is an exact copy of you? It must be, because you can only compare similar things, right? You don’t compare apples and oranges. No, they’re too different.
But even if you would have an exact genetic twin, you would still grow up with different activities, different experiences, different ideas and thoughts; your personalities wouldn’t be the same; your likes and dislikes wouldn’t be same.
So, why would your accomplishments be the same? They can’t be. Impossible.
Copying others means you live in their shadow, you follow them. So, here’s a question for you. You want to be a follower the rest of your life? Does that make you feel good? Does that make you happy?
They say, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ and I truly believe that.
As a trainer in cultural diversity and integration, I help people to understand their surroundings, and build their confidence to achieve their goals and dreams, and become the person they want to be.
And what I so often hear are these words, ‘I want a career like him. I want a body like her. I want a house like them.’ usually followed by a big sigh, dropping their shoulders, sad looking eyes, dropping their head, looking discouraged and demotivated, so ready to give up.
Why are we comparing?
Why? Often comparison comes from a counsel lack, a lack of confidence, a lack of love, a lack of self-esteem. We focus on all the things that we want; we focus on all the things that we don’t have, and that creates a gap between the ideal situation and where we are now.
The bigger the gap, the worse we feel. I can imagine people listening to me now or watching me and thinking, ‘Ah, I wish I was standing there. I wish I had the guts to stand on a stage like that, and talk to and spread a message to an amazing audience like this.
Well, it’s really simple. If you’re not willing to take steps, take actions to beat your anxiety, spend countless hours researching, creating, writing content like I did, chances are very slim that you will ever see what I’m seeing now, and that you will ever feel what I’m feeling now. I mean, look where I’m standing.
Comparing ourselves makes no sense, but we all are comparing ourselves to others. And if you say you don’t, you’re a liar. I mean, have you ever driven into a neighborhood with these gorgeous big houses, thinking, ‘How nice it would be to live here, but my place is the size of der garage.’ I sure have.
It’s really normal to compare yourself, in fact, it’s human nature. Where is it coming from? Well, we learn it in school, as kids. You get your grades back, what’s the first thing you do? ‘Oh, how much do you have? And how much do you have? And how much do you have?’
At home, our parents compared us to our siblings, ‘Can’t you just listen like your brother does? Do your homework just like him?’
How about now? Scrolling through Facebook, looking at dream holidays, seemingly perfect relationships, amazing fit bodies and fabulous achievements. Can you honestly do that without comparing yourself at all?
Social media is a way to connect us with each other. Instead, it often becomes a way of disconnecting from reality. The more likes we have, the better we feel.
Let’s get real here people. Everyone’s life is equally fucked up; every human being has bad days, but we hide our mess and we show our best. We are fooled to believe other people’s life is better than ours. We are fooled to believe the grass is greener on the other side.
Real life is real life for everyone. So, enough reasons to feel bad, let’s talk about the good.
I have great news for you. You don’t have to feel bad. You don’t have to quit your dreams. On the contrary, it’s important to pursue your goals and dreams. You don’t even have to close Facebook account.
So, what can you do? Well, I will tell you, and it’s only two words. So, I see some of you have pen and paper; you may want to write it down. But really, it’s only two words, so you may remember them. The two words are, ‘Stop it.’ ‘Stop it.’
Stop comparing yourself to others. Okay, how? Well, first of all, catch yourself. Be aware of it. And then look at yourself; really look at yourself. Hold up a mirror. It’s called self-reflection; and that is your ticket back to reality.
Look at all the things that you have, instead of all the things that you want. I know, it sounds easy, too easy, right? Let me tell you, I know it’s not.
Let me take you back a few years ago. I was about 37, and obsessed by having kids of my own. Everywhere around me, I saw families with kids. Looking at my Facebook friends; pictures of their kids, celebrating birthdays, gathering around the Christmas tree. And there I was, single, no kids, no one to celebrate with, no other birthdays, Christmas; I don’t even bother putting up a tree.
Until one day, I was talking to my very best friend and I said to him, ‘You’re so lucky. You have it all. You have family, three kids; and I don’t have that.’
He looked at me straight in the eyes and he said, “Rachel, you have so many things that I wish I had. You travel the world; you live in all these different countries; you experienced and learned so much. And here I am, stuck in the same town forever, driving my kids to school, doing their homework every night, preparing lunch boxes every day.”
That was a moment. He opened my eyes. He made me aware of what I had. That day, that moment I realized, I had to start telling my own story; and I did, and so can you.
Just never compare your story with someone else’s story. Don’t compare your chapter one with someone else’s chapter 40. Tell your own story.
Coco Chanel once said, ‘Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.’ And I say to you, ‘Beauty begins the moment you start telling your own story.’ And for that, be inspired. Be inspired. Look at others; listen to others; talk to others.
And from that reality, start growing and learning. Now some people may think, ‘Yeah, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’ Forget that. Many studies have shown that you can learn as an older people. In fact, our brain keeps making new cells no matter what age. So, you can learn and grow, as long as you make the decision.
I made the decision too. Many years, I was looking at other speakers, trainers, other people giving seminars and webinars. I wanted to do that too. So, I began following them. I went to speaking events; I followed seminars, webinars; I talked to trainers and speakers all around the world; I asked them tons of questions, ‘How did you get there? What’s your advice? What steps did you take?’
At the same time, I grew my network; I built a website; I read hundreds of books; I started writing chapter after chapter, step by step.
Easy? No way, because knowing what I want, not getting it fast enough, for someone with my micro amount of patience, trust me, it’s really hard. But I knew, if others can do it, so can I; and so can you.
Just tell your own story. Someone said to me, ‘Try till you die.’ Keep trying.
So I figured, in the end, you have a choice. You can do two things; or you sit back, relax, look at others seemingly doing better, feel really bad about it, give up all your dreams and goals because really all you can think is, ‘I can’t.’
Or you can look around you; find others who do what you want to do; get inspired and create ideas of your own; learn, grow, develop yourself, and learn from those people.
Let’s say you want to become a great cook; spend time with a chef in the restaurant. You want a new job; go and talk to someone who has that job. You want to improve your tennis game; play with someone better than you.
Learn from all these people. Step out of your shell of insecurities and take advantage of all those people around you. Learn as much as you can.
So, imagine, you are 95 years old, reaching the end, whose life will you look back upon? Yours? Or someone else’s? Will you have spent your life comparing yourself to others? Or did you decide to live your own?
My message for you today is this: Stop comparing yourself to others. Look at yourself. Look and realize all the things that you have, all the things that you know and can. Look at others to be inspired; learn from them. Find out how they can make you grow.
And my final question to you is: what is your story and when is your moment…your moment to be the best you.