There is one habit that I have encountered that is one of the most destructive and painful things our minds can do – comparison. Rating ourselves against others in a way that produces superiority or inferiority. Comparison kills love.
Comparing ourselves creates separation and hinders our relationships, steals our success and our creativity. This is true whether we make a positive or a negative comparison. In this article I’m going to explore how we can recognise this sneaky habit and return to truly loving our own life, now.
‘we can feel superior’
If we are comparing ourselves favourably to others it can initially feel good. Even though our more desirable circumstances may have come about through family inheritance, race, education, physical traits or even luck, we can feel superior and become arrogant. Until we find someone above to compare to. And also we are very vulnerable should we lose these circumstances.
Similarly, with physical attributes of beauty, body shape, height, colouring etc – much of this is genetic and has nothing to do with our own work at exercise, healthy eating etc. Yet we can feel we are better than others. Or on the flip side we judge ourselves unfavourably, and have eating disorders, extreme surgery make-overs, harmful workout schedules.
‘nothing wrong with a small dose of competition’
There is nothing wrong with enjoying or celebrating natural gifts and advantages we may have. Nothing wrong with a small dose of competition giving us some needed motivation. It’s about whether we are losing sight of our own authentic self and our own desires in a fog of illusion and envy. Creating stress, pressure and separation. Then we can only pretend to enjoy others’ successes or achievements. We struggle to feel worthy and will even withdraw from relationships. And when we separate, we kill the unity of love.
Comparison is not the same as modelling, where we learn by doing what others do. As children some comparison is healthy as we can create a sense of self. In earlier times our status was part of our survival so looking out for the pecking order was essential. And now we are vigilant about our Facebook likes, our Insta followers, our LinkedIn performance.
‘suddenly we are less than’
We see others ‘moments of glory’ and project that is their whole life. Their relationships, health, skills, looks, wealth seem much better than ours and suddenly we are less than. Social media has created an epidemic of FOMO (fear of missing out), envy and other aspects of ‘comparisonitis’. It used to be called ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’.and now is ‘Following the Joneses.’
Comparison is a habit that advertisers love because it sells things – if we are comparing ourselves unfavourably to others, we will buy things to be more like them, or want experiences that they are having. On the flip side if you feel superior through comparison you will have to stay on the treadmill to maintain that ‘status’.
If we are comparing ourselves unfavourably to another, then we can be overwhelmed by self-doubt, discouragement and even depression and anxiety. It hurts! It is draining our life-force away.
‘an arrow pointing to his purpose’
For the masculine essence, comparison may happen more in the areas of career, status and achievements. As his mission in life is so important and he lives on a failure/success axis. If he is comparing himself unfavourably with others, he will become stressed and discouraged. Wherever he is at, it is never enough. There are billionaires, sporting heroes, profound thinkers, who don’t feel good enough. Beginners compare themselves with much more experienced, mature men and feel inadequate that they have not yet mastered something. It makes no sense, but comparison isn’t logical.
The positive thing he can take from this is to use it as an arrow pointing to his own goals and purpose.
‘comparison with other women is rife’
For the feminine essence, comparison with other women is rife. Women compare their relationship status, their sexual fulfillment, their mothering, and their looks. This takes away the joy and support of sisterhood.
The beauty industry is built on and encourages comparison. Young women can be spending a lot of energy and money trying to look like their favourite celebrities. Older women often want to look younger and silently compare their signs of ageing with their peers. Even very beautiful women don’t feel beautiful.
As Coco Chanel puts it “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” Dare to be a radiant, beautiful You.
‘you could judge yourself as too emotional….too rigid’
If you have a feminine essence and are comparing yourself with a masculine essence you could judge yourself as too emotional, unfocused, undisciplined, indecisive, financially insecure, chaotic. Rather than valuing your easy flow, comfort with chaos, full relationships, unstoppable creativity and your feeling nature.
In reverse it doesn’t happen as much, as we reward the masculine energy more in our culture. But as a masculine essence you could judge yourself for being socially awkward, a clumsy dancer, unfeeling, insensitive or too rigid. Because you are naturally more in the masculine part of the spectrum, comparing yourself to your feminine counterpart will be useless and harmful. We can develop more of our opposite essence when needed, but not from a place of judgment and comparison.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde’
Ultimately, we can only be in our own life. Any mental habit that makes us leave ourselves and ‘go’ over there into another person’s circumstances will produce suffering. It is self-harm.
Comparing ourselves as less than others is a habit that can pop up and entrap us unexpectedly. We might be feeling good about our lives, then we find out something about someone else, and are plunged into doubt or even despair. And, then we cannot live a full life, with real intimacy and the courage to be ourselves.
To follow our own path, our unique beingness in this life. The confidence to do this is sexy. And this is the treasure that we bring to our relationships.
As psychologist Brené Brown puts it, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”
HOW TO IDENTIFY AND COMBAT COMPARISON
These are things I have done myself and suggested to others when comparison happens….. choose which ones feel right for you to do.
1. If you make financial comparisons – go to http://www.globalrichlist.com and see how your income and wealth compare to the rest of the world. That is usually a helpful comparison as we forget about those who are surviving on much, much less.
2. When you compare yourself unfavourably to someone else, stop and notice how it makes you feel. Be aware of the thoughts you are having, and feel what it feels like. What is happening in your body?
‘Breathe. Slow down. Accept’
Breathe fully and slowly. Accept whatever is happening inside you. It’s not wrong, you are not wrong.
Remind yourself that ‘I can only be in my own life.’ We can’t be somebody else or live their life. Wanting that leads to leaving your own precious self, and also to strong feelings of discouragement.
3. If comparison bites strongly enough its worth taking a look to see if it is really what you want. Or is the mind just tricking you from old beliefs and conditioning. For example, you are renting a small apartment and compare yourself to another who own a gorgeous house: Do you actually want to live in their house? Or does your rented house offer you more freedom? Perhaps it brings you closer to your community rather than isolated in a splendid mansion. You may have spent your money on personal transformation and travel, enriching your heart and soul. Value the path you have taken.
If you are envious of someone’s relationship, ask yourself: Do you really know what goes on for them? Would you want to make the compromises they have made? Is being single actually perfect for this time in your life?
‘Who do you love?’
Who do you love? Focus on one person that you love and feel the goodness of your love. Treasure it. (As comparison kills love, when we come back to the heart there is no room for comparison).
If the longing remains strong, then it is wise to put energy and action into creating that.
4. Stop looking at things that make you compare yourself to others. Block, unsubscribe, unfollow. Refocus into your own life, goals, achievements.
5. What can you appreciate about yourself? What are the qualities others admire in you? Make a list so that your brain can refocus on the positives rather the negatives, which is an ancient survival habit. Keep that list handy and use it as needed.
You can have an ‘acknowledgment box’ that holds records of your achievements, however small. Top it up regularly, ready to open when comparison and self-doubt hit.
6. Openly offer praise and appreciation for someone else’s abilities, talents and what they have created. If they have a good relationship you know that takes work, devotion and commitment. If they are succeeding at their work and mission, you know that takes persistence, hard work and sacrifices. When we offer appreciation, we are affirming our own ability to create these things too. It is empowering.
Moving from comparison to appreciation isn’t always easy. We may feel they are doing better than us, and it’s bitter sweet to acknowledge it.
Try it just once and see the results and the shift you will have. Then make it a practice when you notice you are comparing yourself unfavourably to another.
And as spiritual teacher Osho beautifully puts it:
“Do you compare a marigold with a rose flower? You don’t compare. Do you compare a mango with an apple? You don’t compare. You know they are different – comparison is not possible….
“There has never been any individual like you before and there will never be again. You are utterly unique. This is your privilege, your prerogative, existence’s blessing – that it has made you unique. Don’t compare. Comparison will bring trouble.…” OSHO
With love and appreciation,