Why comparing ourselves can hurt so much, and why it doesn't need to...
This is a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, and I found it very striking, because so many of us use comparison as a way to destroy ourselves. We let it feed those inner demons so that they actually have control and rule over us. It makes us miserable.
Our brain is clever. And it chooses who to compare itself to with devastating effect. Have you ever noticed anything about the comparisons you make? Usually, we pick someone who is just similar enough to us that it somehow makes their success our lack. For example, if you were looking to see how flexible you are, you might compare yourself to your yoga teacher who is about the same age, not an Olympic gymnast.
We compare ourselves to our work colleagues, that person at the gym, the person on social media, who are just similar enough to us to highlight our deficiencies. We handily forget whether or not it's a 'fair' comparison, we just use them as extra artillery against ourselves. What are the others factors in their perceived success? Are they in the middle of their journey whilst you're just beginning? Their success absolutely does not mean your failure.
I think we need to foster more self awareness about how we make these comparisons. Become an observer of yourself. Notice the triggers for comparisons and who you are comparing yourself to. Notice the self conservation. Notice how you respond to the self conversation - do you accept it? And then as you learn more about this process, start to implement strategies to disrupt it.
Can you avoid the trigger? Can you choose a more helpful role model? Can you choose to distract or disengage in that destructive self conversation? Can you actively choose a different self conversation?
This is also why I passionately believe in practicing what I preach and you won't see me on social media in my sports bra and abs. It stimulates unnecessary comparisons. My body is not your body. Social media can be such a big trigger for this, be aware of it. So if you notice this, unfollow or unfriend them. Minimise your exposure to them. It's the kind thing to do for yourself.
Here's my alternative. How about using comparison as a tool to actually lift ourselves up and grow? Most of us don't do that: using comparison to spark gratitude. That doesn't mean find someone less fortunate than you and use it to feel superior! It means use it to notice something you feel grateful for, and then respond to it with humanity; help others. There's lots of evidence that fostering a mindset of gratitude and service to others really can improve your wellbeing. Imagine using comparison as a tool to help improve the world and help us all lead happier lives.
I'm writing this because it breaks my heart that people destroy themselves with comparisons they don't need to make. They believe the most awful stuff about themselves. If that is you, it's not true. Your body is a beautiful instrument that allows you to be HERE - it's a vehicle to allow you joy, compassion, creativity, love and happiness. Speak out. Seek help if you need to. Know that you are worthy to feel so much happier than you do now ♥️