Compare Less, Feel Better
Oh dear warriors, I am so excited to bring this post to you because switching how I view this one area has cut back on a lot of the drama that I used to bring to my life. What’s the area? Comparison.
When I compare myself to anyone, I feel worse. Whether it’s a random neighbor or my best friend, I feel worse. And it’s a double kind of worse. I feel worse about myself for being that judgy kind of person and worse about whatever aspect of my life I’m comparing. Ick and double ick.
Today I want to shine some compassion on this instinct of ours to compare and provide an alternative that can help shift us out of the ick. Yes warriors, keep reading to see how we can eliminate some mental drama and actually use our natural wiring of comparing for good in our life.
First, let’s talk about how comparison is deeply imbedded in our DNA and how our brain’s drive to survive is not serving us in this arena.
We have been comparing ourselves to others since we were cavewomen. Comparing ourselves to others is normal human behavior and is rooted in our deep need for survival. Former cavewoman Susie had to look at her cavewoman friend Sally and compare herself to her speed and physicality. She needed to know that if they were both being chased by a tiger, could she outrun Sally or was she better off climbing a tree? We would look at our cave neighbors and wonder how they got their campfire to burn for so much longer than ours so that we could learn and keep our family’s warm and alive. Our brain has been deeply wired to compare in an effort to keep us alive and to survive. That is it’s job. Only problem is our brain hasn’t evolved. It hasn’t gotten the message that nowadays we don’t need to run from tigers or keep our families alive in the tundra.
And so, we get on Facebook…we see a picture of a friend with her husband, her well coiffed kids…maybe even an adorable dog for goodness sake and our brain is off and running. From that one picture, our brain can make up this whole story about their life. Our brains are story making machines. They can take one picture and make a whole movie out of it. If this were me looking at the Facebook picture, my brain could go to imagining her husband putting his hand on her lower back while asking how her day went. My brain would imagine her kids doing their chores without nagging and maybe even voluntarily flossing their teeth! My brain may go so far as to imagine how her mother probably calls once a week to remind her how awesome she is and how proud she is that she’s her mom. Do you see how outrageous this is? From one picture! Yet this is what we do warriors!
We look at their life or their circumstance through a very narrow, photo-shopped lens and use it to feel badly about ourselves. This is not helpful and is why there are studies done on what is called Facebook depression, studies done on the connection between comparison and feeling despair.
Two quotes to start us off:
Mine: If it triggers you, it’s about you
Carl Jung’s: Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding in ourselves.
Hum. Ponder that for a bit.
Say I feel worse when looking at someone’s picture on Facebook or of hearing of someone’s success on the phone. If I can step back and view that as the universe giving me a gentle little nudge. It’s like it’s pointing out: here’s a growth opportunity for you Susie.
If it triggers me, it’s about me. True here. When I compare or judge someone else, it’s like holding a mirror up to some aspect of my life where growth could occur. A couple of posts back, I spoke of how I used to compare and judge other parents at playgrounds if I saw them holding hands or chilling with coffee. Why? Because I thought they should be drinking tea? No. Because I was there with my ex, a man whom was scary and intimidating to me. When I saw the other couple it pointed out what was missing in my marriage and what I was desperate for in my own life.
As Carl Jung expertly points out: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding in ourselves.”
This is how we can use comparison and judging for good. Now, when I catch myself comparing or judging others, I reflect and ask myself: What can I learn from my judgement or comparison? What we are critical of in others is almost always a reflection of what we are critical of in ourselves or maybe what we are settling for and making excuses for in our lives.
Think about it. There are many Facebook posts that you pass without comparison or judgement. For example, if one of my friends posted a picture of holding an award for singing Opera while salsa dancing, I’d feel genuine joy for her. There would not be a thread of comparison or judgement as I am completely comfortable with my Opera singing and salsa dancing. Now, if I had always wanted to learn salsa or Opera but had put off taking classes, there would absolutely be a low hum of mental drama. As I said, judgement is a great mirror for us to use for self development.
This is where the fun begins warriors! When we notice our brain doing what it’s wired to do, we can use our comparison or judgment to learn and explode into the next level of our awesomeness. If we see someone do something amazing, that’s evidence that it’s possible for us too!
Instead of thinking that if someone has something, there’s less for you. Remind your brain that if someone has something, that means it’s possible for you too. View their experience as evidence that it’s possible for you.
As I’ve said, our brains are like super computers. They have a certain software running of what they believe is possible for you and they run that over and over. Good news is, we can get our brains to work for us by doing a sort of software update. When we show our brain other people’s experiences, it learns that’s possible for us too! Our brain needs what I call expanders. It needs to expand what its’ current definition is on what is possible in order to create it in your life. It needs to see what’s possible, whether that’s in marriage, in parenting, in profession, in wellness, in anything before it can believe that it’s possible for us. our brains need to know that something is possible in order to bring it into fruition for us.
Not having the expander is one of the main reasons I stuck in my marriage for 19 years. I didn’t believe a different type of marriage was possible so I didn’t think to look for more. My brain defined marriage based on what was modeled to me by my parents and my ex’s parents. I did have much exposure to other marriages yet, looking back, the universe was nudging me with my judgement, jealousy and comparison of other couples and other marriages.
Don’t feel sorry for me though. Yes, my brain stayed in a situation for a lot longer because it was uncomfortable leaping into the nether. That said, expanders and expansion is one of the main reasons why I chose to remarry. I wanted to showcase my love as an example of what was possible in marriage for myself and for my sons and his sons. I love being an example of what is possible in wellness, in love, in business, in parenting. To show a different model and way of being so that other brains stretch and reach too.
“If we think we can, we can. If we think we can’t, we can’t” Henry Ford
If we think it’s possible to have intense physical and emotional intimacy in midlife, it is. If we think it’s possible to parent without yelling, it is. If we think it’s possible to thrive in our life, not just survive, it is. If we think it’s possible to live a life we love, oh dear warriors, it is!!!
And so, dear warriors, rest assured that your brain’s wiring to compare is natural. There’s no need to beat yourself up for comparing and judging. What you get to do is use it as an instrument to see where you have an opportunity to grow. Where you have been settling or playing small in your life.
I invite you to get curious about who you judge and where you compare. What is is telling you about yourself and your life? What is the universe inviting you to learn about and explore?
And my dear lovely warrior, reflect on how you already are a vision of what is possible. Where is your example shining a light out to others in your family and community? This is our year and our life warriors. Where can you be a vision of what’s possible?
Please share this episode with one other person who may resonate with this message. If everyone who read this did that, we’d double the reach of this message!! The more people who go around taking steps to live a happier life, the better off we all are.
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You are never alone, dear warrior.